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David Livingstone

In 1841, Dr. David Livingston took up his first medical missionary trip through Africa with the London Missionary Society. Early on in his diary he tells the story of himself, along with some of the locals, defending the village from lions. While Livingston was loading his gun, he was attacked. He writes that the lion pounced on him, biting his shoulder and landing with a paw on his back. The lion growled and shook him like a rat. Livingstone recalled, in this moment of absolute terror, being surprised at the absolute numbness that he felt—like a patient under an anesthetic—unable to feel the knife.

“This peculiar state,” he wrote, “is probably produced in all animals killed by the carnivora; and if so, is a merciful provision by our benevolent Creator for lessening the pain of death.”

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How Can I Teach Lost Kids to be Good?

the way he should goQuestion:

How can I teach my kids to be good christians when they aren’t even saved?

This can seem like a daunting question. We know that it is only the Spirit who produces the fruit of good works and that (as the 1689 London Baptist Confession states) “Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands … cannot please God.” But, we must not forget that “their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing to God.”

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After the Storm

Recently our city was hit with not one but two series of tornadoes in a three week time span.  The storms uprooted century-old trees, cause incalculable damages to buildings, claimed the lives of citizens and destroyed the lives of many more.  In the face of such devastation one is prompted to take a step back and try to wrap one's head around it all.  It's impossible of course, but one is prompted to try.  As I attempted to do just that there were a few things that continue to come to the surface, and I'd like to share some of my thoughts here.

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Are You Selfish for Taking Your Children to a Small Church?

Andy Stanley is currently being criticized by many in the evangelical world for saying in a recent sermon that parents who take their children to a small church are selfish. Specifically, Mr. Stanley said:

“When I hear adults say, ‘I don’t like a big church. I like about 200. I wanna be able to know everybody.’ I say you are so stinkin’ selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids, anybody else’s kids. If you don’t go to a church large enough, where you can have enough middle-schoolers and high-schoolers so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big ol’ church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people, and grow up and love the local church. Instead, what you do…you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church, and then they go off to college, and you pray there’ll be a church in their college town that they connect with, and guess what: all those churches are big, the kind of church you don’t like. Don’t attend a church that teaches your children to hate church.”

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How and Why We Do Children's Ministry

I am often asked about the Children's Ministry here at Flint Reformed Baptist Church, and I am always happy to give an answer.  The reactions to my answer vary from a lack-luster stare to an enthusiastic conversation.  The disparity here, I think, is not really a result of how we do things but of why.  This question is seldom asked, but its undergerds everything else.  If your why does not line up with our how the whole thing seems weird.  Conversely, if our how resonates with you, it's probably because you align with our why.

I know that some of you have never heard this before, and it’s possible that you’ve never really given it much thought.  Children’s Ministry is just something that churches do in that other big room when they're not having potlucks.  I know that some of you live and breath this subject so much that it’s kind of become old hat, and you know what I’m going to say before I say it.  You could even finish my s… However, I think that for most of us this is likely a subject of great importance that doesn’t get a whole lot of thought.  It’s kind of like the engine in my car.  I know that it’s really important, but I don’t know what goes on in there, and I really don’t even think about it until it makes too much noise, and even then I just want someone else to take care of it.  So, for those who are interested, here is how and why we do Children's Ministry at Flint Reformed.

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How Should Christians Talk to Their Kids About Homosexuality

“And then the two guys started kissing.”  This was the statement a first grade neighborhood kid made to my seven year old homeschooled son about a television show that he had seen on a family-friendly network.  There were days when Christians parents could live quiet and tranquil lives in a way that allowed them to tackle worldview issues in their own timing.  It would seem those days are behind us.

 The recent Supreme Court decision regarding homosexual marriage, doesn't change everything like some fear.  No foundational truth, no word of scripture, no character of God, no detail of His providence has been changed—not one iota.  Even what we must teach our children about homosexuality remains the same.  We must teach them what God’s word says about it.  It seems apparent, however, that how we teach our children about homosexuality must change.

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Five More Reasons Why I Normally Preach Through Books of the Bible

6) Preaching through books of the Bible models the best way to study the Bible

It seems likely that many in a congregation will model their own personal Bible study after what the Pastor does on Sunday morning. If they see me skipping around, avoiding the hard texts, and not dealing with things that can be difficult to understand, then they will assume that this is how they should study their Bible as well. 

7) Preaching through books of the Bible gives the congregation a better understanding of individual books of the Bible 

Jonah was the first book that I preached through. In my experience, if you asked most professing Christians “what is the primary message of the book of Jonah?” Or “what does Jonah tell us about God, and grace, and our mission in the world?” they wouldn’t be able to tell you. Perhaps they have heard sermons on “Jonah and the whale” but beyond that, they don’t have a great understanding of the book as a whole. I am convinced, though, from my experience that over the long-haul, congregants will have a much better understanding of individual books of the Bible and the Bible as a whole if they have been exposed weekly to consecutive expository preaching through books as opposed to other methods. 

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Five Reasons Why I Normally Preach Through Books of the Bible

Next Sunday, 7/5/2015, I will be concluding my sermon series preaching through the Book of Galatians. In total, I will have preached 23 sermons from the book over the course of about six months. The week after I conclude Galatians, I will be starting a new series preaching through the Book of Ecclesiastes. I anticipate spending about five months preaching through the book. 

Now after hearing that, several obvious questions may emerge in your mind. For example: Why would you do that? Why would you plan to spend five months preaching through an obscure book like Ecclesiastes? Wouldn’t it be better to preach from the Gospels? Won’t your congregation get restless being in the same book for so long? Wouldn’t it be better to “shake it up some” by preaching a week in the gospels, a week in the epistles, and then a week in the Old Testament?

Great questions.

While preaching through books of the Bible has been growing in popularity in recent years, it is still looked upon as something strange in large sections of Christendom. Even within evangelicalism, preaching through books of the Bible in an expository fashion has been cautioned against by some, and dismissed as easy by others. My goal, then, in these next series of posts is to explain why I am convinced that preaching through books of the Bible is the best way to provide a balanced diet of scriptural truth for the congregation. 

Why do I preach through books of the Bible?

1) As a pastor, I have a responsibility to preach the whole counsel of God

Paul was able to declare to the Ephesians Elders in Acts 20: “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” He famously told Timothy in his second letter to him, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” By preaching through books of the Bible, we honor the fact that every verse of scripture is the word of God and needs to be declared. If we only preach certain parts of certain books, we neglect the truth that all of the scripture is indeed breathed by God. This leads to the second reason. 

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Bible for Kids

From time to time I have been asked what Bible I would recommend for kids.  I think this is an important (and pretty tough) choice.  For those of us with the means, there is a difficult balance between showing a sense of respect and value for a Bible (as opposed to a Little Golden book) and knowing that it will be put through the ringer (like a pair of jeans).  Where is the balance?  How much should I spend?  Shouldn't I try to make it fun?  Is a kid-specific translation a good idea?  These are all tough questions.

I'll try to help you answer some of them, but let me express a few thoughts first:

  • The Word of God is special and powerful—not the paper and the binding.  The Word of God is living and effective, wonderful and working regardless of how it is printed.
  • The Word of God is to be treasured in our hearts—not on our shelves.  The most expensive leather-bound Bible in pristine, never-been-used condition is nothing in comparison to a $1 paperback Bible that is falling apart from honest use.
  • The Word of God is to be done—not only read.  James urges us to be doers of the word and not hearers only.  To do otherwise would be foolish, forgetful and even fatal.

That being said, I have been blessed enough to be able to spend some money on Bibles for my little readers.  I decided to get some that were nice and would last.  I have chosen and would recommend to you the ESV Kid's Thinline Bible.  I feel sure there are other good options out there, but this has been the most ideal Bible for kids that I have seen to date.  Why?  I'm glad you asked.

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Should the Church Compromise on Gay Marriage to Be Relevant?

It is difficult to turn on the news, browse the web, or open a newspaper without hearing something about gay marriage. From “controversial” laws in Indiana and Arkansas, to Supreme Court decisions, to judges overturning state constitutions defining marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman, to Christian denominations changing their stance toward gay marriage, the issue is simply everywhere. Anyone who does not wholeheartedly accept, embrace, and celebrate gay marriage as something intrinsically good is automatically dismissed as a bigot. As Pastor Kevin DeYoung recently said, “We should not expect our ideas to be debated fairly when it has already been concluded that there are no ideas to consider, only bigotry to suppress. As I’ve said before, why argue about dogma when stigma will do?”

In the midst of all of these conversations, there have been calls for the evangelical church to change its position on the issue of gay marriage if they want any chance of being seen as relevant in the culture. Speaking concerning the issue of gay marriage and the church, former pastor Rob Bell recently said, “I think culture is already there [accepting of gay marriage] and the church will continue to be even more irrelevant when it quotes letters from 2,000 years ago as their best defense…”

Much could be said concerning Bell’s views such as his dismissal of scripture as merely “letters from 2,000 years ago,” but I want to focus on the main point that he is articulating and that I have read countless times in recent years. The position that the church must change its position on gay marriage or else it will shrink into irrelevancy. 

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Book Recommendations from 2014

Recently, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association released the best-selling Christian books for 2014. That list is as follows:

1) Jesus Calling-Sarah Young

2) Heaven Is For Real: Paperback-Todd Burpo

3) Heaven Is For Real: Movie Edition-Todd Burpo

4) The Five Love Languages-Gary Chapman

5) Four Blood Moons-John Hagee

6) I Am A Church Member-Thom Rainer

7) The Total Money Makeover-Dave Ramsey

8) You Can, You Will-Joel Osteen

9) The Daniel Plan-Rick Warren 

10) The Mystery of the Shemitah-Jonathan Cahn 

 

Granted, I don’t know what one has to do for a book to be labeled as a “Christian Book.” Some of these books may or may not offer helpful points with regards to relationships, finance, and diet, but they are not explicitly Christian. Some, like Jesus Calling, despite their immense popularly are unhelpful and even dangerous as argued by Michael Horton here and Tim Challies here. It’s not just the best-sellers though. A quick trip to Lifeway will reveal a myriad of books with varying levels of theological soundness. It is no surprise, then, that many evangelicals simply don’t know what to read. They are either left overwhelmed by the amount of books that are available and therefore don’t read at all, or they are, unbeknownst to them, reading books that are leading them away from what accords with sound doctrine as many of the aforementioned books would undoubtedly do. 

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The Need to Define Our Terms

 “What do you mean by that?” “How do you define the term *insert theological term that was just used*?” Those are two questions that I find myself asking more and more. While I have undoubtedly annoyed many by constantly asking them what they mean by the words that they use, it is a practice that I am finding to be more and more necessary. The reason is simple: with many terms, but especially with theological terms, there is a wide array of definitions that may be attached to the same word.

For example, consider this statement: “The Bible says that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will be saved.” Is that a true statement? Certainly. The problem, however, is that it is a statement that many people can agree with including Roman Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, as well as countless other groups in-between. Now many would rejoice over this reality and declare it an ecumenical victory, but the reality is that any “agreement” is only because the terms have not been properly defined.

For example, what does one mean when they use the word Bible? The Protestant Bible? The Catholic Bible? Is the Book of Mormon included? The Bible as interpreted by the Watchtower Society? Is the Quran included in one’s understanding of the Bible?

What does one mean when they use the word believe? What does it actually look like to believe? Muslims argue that one must believe that Jesus Christ existed in order to be a faithful Muslim so they could get on board with this statement.

 What does one mean when they refer to Jesus Christ? Is Christ fully God and fully man as Christianity has historically taught? Is he only a man as the Jehovah’s Witnesses say? Is he the spirit brother of Lucifer as the Mormons say? Is he the second to last prophet who pointed to the prophet Muhammad who was to come? What did Jesus actually say? What did Jesus actually do?

What does one mean when they use the word saved? What are we saved from? What does salvation entail? Even among those who profess to be Christians, you will find many different ways in which the word salvation is used. Many individuals who hold to Liberation Theology will use terms like “salvation” and “saved” but their understanding of those words is drastically different from historic Christianity.

Consider again the statement: “The Bible says that everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will be saved.” A true statement, but it is meaningless until we define our terms.

With this understanding in mind, we must define our own terms and ask others to do the same for three reasons.

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Going to Church this Sunday? Why Not Just Have a BBQ Instead?

Is there anything distinctly Christian about your typical church experience? Now, I don’t doubt that Christian language and symbolism are used, and the Bible is most likely referenced and read from. But when you really start to think about where the emphasis is placed, and where the focus is located, and where the energy goes, is it all directed toward anything that is distinctively and undeniably Christian?

Growing numbers of church-going men and women are beginning to realize that after they peel off the surface layer, many of their Christian churches offer little that is uniquely Christian at all! All of the things that receive emphasis, focus, and energy in their churches are things that could be found at any social gathering, or are widely available in higher quality forms on TV and the internet.

Their churches feature pleasing, catchy music – but so does American Idol and Glee. Their churches offer humorous entertainment – but sit-coms and movies are far funnier. Their churches provide helpful advice and strategies for living well – but there are thousands of books, TV programs, podcasts, and conferences dedicated to self-help, and with these you can go straight to a particular issue without having to wait for the preacher to maybe cover it. Their churches give them an opportunity to enjoy friendship and community- but you could find this in the context of any organized religion, country club, support group, community center, service club, hobby association, or even your ordinary weekend BBQ!

What’s going on here? The reality is that in a pragmatic effort to attract greater and greater numbers, many evangelical churches have retained the outward trappings of Christianity, while hollowing out the vital core. If we are to call ourselves Christian in any meaningful sense, then we must make central to our church life that which the Bible makes central. What does the Bible make central? The glory and holiness of the Triune God, the reality of sin and divine wrath, and the wonder of Christ’s death and grace to those who don’t deserve it.

So the question becomes, where does your church place its emphasis?

At Flint River Bible Fellowship, our highest goal is to glorify and honor God, and to find our greatest joy in him. We aim for biblical, doctrinally rich preaching and teaching, and corporate worship that places the focus on God and not on ourselves. We believe that the church is not just another social club or social interest group, but it is instead a body of people called by God’s grace through faith in Christ to glorify God and edify one another.

To learn more about our church, browse our website or feel free to contact us.

Lessons the Church Can Learn from the “Deconversion” of Bart Campolo

The news recently came to light that prominent Christian speaker Bart Campolo had abandoned Christianity and is now a “Secular Humanist Chaplain” at the University of Southern California. Bart Campolo, as you might have guessed, is the son of the prominent progressive pastor and former spiritual advisor to Bill Clinton, Tony Campolo.

In response to the news, several news organizations have run a story on Bart Campolo including the Huffington Post and Christianity Today. In the latter piece, Ed Stetzer of Christianity Today refers to Campolo’s descent from Christianity to secular humanism as a “deconversion.” Campolo recently spoke to the “Secular Student Alliance” at USC and taught how they could integrate the community building aspects of Christianity into the Secular Student Alliance without, according to Campolo, “the unnecessary dogma.” That video can be seen here.

I first became aware of Bart Campolo in 2010. At the time, I was working as a youth pastor for a Methodist Church. The big event every year for this youth group was an event known as Pilgrimage. Pilgrimage was a weekend run by the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church directed towards youth groups. Each year, several thousand youth from various churches all across the state would descend on Fayetteville, North Carolina for Pilgrimage. That particular year, though, there was some controversy as the keynote speaker for the event was Bart Campolo. While Mr. Campolo still considered himself a Christian at that time, (it was not until the next year when Mr. Campolo says that he completely abandoned the faith) he had already denied that God was sovereign over the world, the inspiration of the scriptures, and the possibility of any supernatural events in the Bible including Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead. Campolo also became a Universalist, meaning that he believed that everyone would go to heaven regardless of what they actually believed. Campolo himself stated, “I passed just about every stage of heresy on my way to apostasy.” In 2011, though, Campolo had abandoned so many aspects of Christianity that it no longer made sense for him to view himself as a Christian. He sums it up well by saying, “My Christianity had died the death of a thousand nicks and cuts. ”

Instead of merely shaking our heads or perhaps rolling our eyes, I believe that there are two main lessons that the church can learn from this account of Bart Campolo.

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