Saturday, July 12, 2008

the lowercase has moved!

i first started a blog in the summer of 2005 during one of my recurring bouts of insomnia.

3 years, 200 posts, and over 20,000 visits later, i have moved from over to wordpress.
for various reasons, all of which i am sure you do not care about, i think this will be a better fit.

so please change any bookmarks, feeds, links, etc. to reflect the new address:

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

sbc-southern baptist christian

continuing the discussion from yesterday- there are distinctives that are necessary to be a christian, and there are others that make one a particular demographic of christian. none of these "denominational" (for lack of a better word) distinctives undermine or contradict the primary christian distinctives.

at the blog between the times, nathan finn, professor of church history at southeastern seminary in wake forest, north carolina, highlights what beliefs make southern baptists christian, and also what makes these christians "baptist".

an excerpt:

Because our Christian identity is essential to our Baptist identity, we share a number of convictions with the wider catholic tradition, whether in its Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant forms:

1. Baptists believe in the Triune God who exists
eternallyas Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

2. Baptists believe that this Triune God created
the world good,but that his good world has been
corrupted because of the sin ofthe first human beings.

3. Baptists believe that Jesus Christ is the unique
God-Man, theincarnate Son of God, the second person
of the Trinity, both trulydivine and genuinely human.

4. Baptists believe that God is redeeming the world
and rescuinglost sinners through the person and work
of Jesus Christ.

5. Baptists believe that every human being will spend
eternity in eitherHeaven or Hell, and each person’s eternal
destination is based upon howthat person responds to God’s
revelation in Christ.

6. Most Baptists believe that all Christians everywhere are
adopted into God’s family and are part of his universal church,
a groupwhich includes all presently living believers as well
as all the redeemedof all the ages.

7. Baptists believe that all of these truths are taught in the
Bible, whichis God’s authoritative written word to humanity.

he continues...

Because of our historic milieu, Baptists embrace a number
ofconvictions that are embraced by most other Protestant

1. Baptists believe that salvation comes by grace
through faithand that sinners are justified by faith
rather than by good works.

2. Baptists believe in the supreme authority of Scripture,
arguingthat the Bible is the ultimate norm for faith and
practice and is thusof a greater authority than traditions,
creeds, confessions, and individual opinions.

3. Most Baptists believe in only two ordinances (or sacraments),
baptismand the Lord’s Supper, and reject a sacerdotal understanding
of salvation.

4. Baptists believe in the priesthood of all believers,
claiming that everybeliever has direct access to God as
a result of the high priestly ministryof Jesus Christ.

5. Baptists argue against the existence of a special
priestly class of Christians,arguing that all believers are
spiritually equipped for the work of the gospel
ministry within their unique vocations.

Baptists are Christians. Even more specifically, Baptists are a type of Protestant Christian. The vast majority of our beliefs are not unique to Baptists, which is a good thing; when too many of your beliefs are different from other Christians, what you have is likely an alternative to Christianity.

Having established that most of our beliefs are shared with other types of Christians, I want to briefly consider those beliefs that are typically associated with Baptist Christians. There are at least five distinctives that are uniquely emphasized by Baptists:

1. Regenerate church membership
2. Believer’s baptism
by immersion
3. Congregational church polity
4. Local church autonomy
5. Liberty of conscience

i highly encourage you (especially any baptists) to read this whole article.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

i believe...

my last few posts, and a recurring theme here at the lowercase has been on the issue of orthodoxy.

webster's defines orthodox as "conforming to established doctrine especially in religion". when someone says they are a christian, what they should mean is that they believe and affirm the most basic tenents of the christian faith as historically recognized by christians. obviously there are differences among christians. baptists, methodists, presbyterians, anglicans, etc. can all legitimately be true christians, despite their differences in certain areas. (baptism, church structure, etc.)

but certain things are not negotiable. there are some things that one cannot deny, or must affirm in order to be a christian.

one such summary of non-negotiable christian beliefs is the nicene creed. affirmed by the council of nicea in 325 a.d. , this document affirmed the core beliefs of christianity in an effort to combat the heresies of that day. in doing so, the council has recorded for us a very succinct record of non-negotiable affirmations of the christian faith.

two quick notes.
1) creeds have no authority of their own. they are only accurate insofar as they accurately reflect the teachings of scripture. having said that, creeds and confessions of faith can be very helpful in helping us learn and retain what scripture teaches.

2) the nicene creed speaks of "one holy catholic and apostolic church". the use of the word "catholic" is not a reference to roman catholicism-but rather the church universal.

the nicene creed

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
and of all things visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only begotten Son of
God,begotten of his Father before all worlds,
God of God, Light of Light,very God of very God,
begotten, not made,
being of one substance with the Father;
by whom all things were made;
who for us men and for our
salvation came down from heaven,
and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the
Virgin Mary,and was made man; and was
crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried;and the third day he rose again
according to the Scriptures,and ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of the Father;
and he shall come again, with glory,to judge both
the quick and the dead;whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Life,
who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son];
who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified;
who spake by the Prophets.

And I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;
I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins;
and I look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

when the truth hurts...

i can't think of a better way to celebrate the 200th post at the lowercase than to post a sermon, that, the first time i heard it, ripped me to the core.

this video is a of a sermon given by paul washer at a 2002 youth conference. if you have ever been to a youth conference, you know how seriously most youth do *not* take what they hear. i was one of them. i went to one almost every year between 7th grade and my senior year of high school. i was the youth minister's son. i was a christian. but the sermons were my (and all of my friends) least favorite part... and a lot of ungodly behavior took place (secretly and in public)while on those trips. i know i never heard a sermon like this... but i sure wish i had.

incidentally, washer was not invited back. the truth will do that sometimes.

get an hour to yourself and watch this hour long sermon. if you do watch it, you will not be the same afterward.

Monday, June 30, 2008

"what do you mean by that?"

i hesitate to post the following because this blog has never been about pushing a political agenda.
that is not what this post is about either. it is about the mis-use of the label "christian".

jesus was not a "white middle class republican", so i do not think that "good christians" can only vote republican, or even that a candidate's religious beliefs should be the litmus test for their ability to lead. while i would hope that all politicians would accept the gospel and live lives of obedience to christ, i do not withhold my vote for them solely on the basis of their faith (or lack of).

because much is being made about senator barack obama's faith, and with his current campaign openly seeking to reach the "evangelical vote", information about his beliefs and his commentary on them is easily available... one could almost say it is constantly presenting itself.

i can honestly say that if (when?) similar contradictions between professed faith and actual beliefs present themselves about john mccain, i will address it with the same scrutiny. again, this post is *not* about why someone should or should not vote for obama, but rather it is about why we must be clear that christianity has specific beliefs that cannot be compromised and maintain the name "christian".

that being said.... consider the following from a 2004 chicago -sun times interview with senator barack obama.
i will present them without commentary. simply read his own words (the whole interview is linked for context) and see if his description of being a christian leaves wondering what he means by "christian".

"I am a Christian..."So, I have a deep faith," Obama continues.
"I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are
many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there
is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.
...[t]hat there are values that transcend race or
culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for
all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility
to make those values lived."

"The difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity,
is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize.
There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that if people
haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior,
they're going to hell."

Obama doesn't believe he, or anyone else, will go to hell.
But he's not sure if he'll be going to heaven, either.

"I don't presume to have knowledge of
what happens after I die," he says. "When I tuck in my
daughters at night, and I feel like I've been a good father
to them, and I see in them that I am transferring values
that I got from my mother and that they're kind people
and that they're honest people, and they're curious people,
that's a little piece of heaven."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

the blame game

i ran across this guest post by over at the desiring god blog. honestly, i saw myself in many of the "excuses". i pass it on for purposes of encouragement and improvement.
i will reprint the full article here, but highly encourage visiting desiring god's website and blog for a wealth of articles, sermons, books, and other resources... many can be downloaded for free.

12 Sins We Blame On Others
The following is a guest post [at desiring god's blog]by Ben Reaoch,
pastor of Three Rivers Grace Church in downtown Pittsburgh, PA

It started in the Garden. Adam said to God,

The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate. (Genesis 3:12)

The first man, caught in the first sin, turns to blame his wife. And he extends the blame to God as well! He implies that he would have remained innocent if God hadn’t put Eve in the garden with him.

The blame-shifting in the Garden continues today. Our proud hearts send us desperately looking for someone else to point to every time we’re confronted with our own sin. There must be someone else—our spouse, sibling, parent, boss, co-worker, pastor, friend, or God, himself.

We are so desperate to justify ourselves that we become irrational. Here are 12 examples.

1) Anger
I wouldn’t lose my temper if my co-workers were easier to get along with,
or if my kids behaved better, or if my spouse were more considerate.

2) Impatience
I would be a very patient person if it weren’t for traffic jams and long lines
in the grocery store. If I didn’t have so many things to do, and if the people
around me weren’t so slow, I would never become impatient!

3) Lust
I would have a pure mind if there weren’t so many sensual images in our culture.

4) Anxiety
I wouldn’t worry about the future if my life were just a little more secure—
if I had more money, and no health problems.

5) Spiritual Apathy
My spiritual life would be so much more vibrant and I would struggle with
sin less if my small group were more encouraging, or if Sunday school were
more engaging, or if the music in the worship service were more lively, or
if the sermons were better.

6) Insubordination
If my parents/bosses/elders were godly leaders, then I would joyfully follow them.

7) A Critical Spirit
It’s not my fault that the people around me are ignorant and inexperienced.

8) Bitterness
If you knew what that person did to me, you would understand my bitterness.
How could I forgive something like that?

9) Gluttony
My wife/husband/roommate/friend is a wonderful cook! The things they
make are impossible to resist.

10) Gossip
It’s the people around me who start the conversations. There’s no way to
avoid hearing what others happen to say. And when others ask me questions,
I can’t avoid sharing what I know.

11) Self-Pity
I’ll never be happy, because my marriage/family/job/ministry is so difficult.

12) Selfishness
I would be more generous if we had more money.

Making excuses like this is arrogant and foolish.
It’s a proud way of trying to justify our actions and
pacify our guilty consciences. And it keeps us from
humbling ourselves before God to repent of our sins
and seek his forgiveness.

Consider James 1:13-15, which leaves us with no way
of escaping our own sin and guilt. We cannot blame God,
for he “cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”

Instead, we have to accept the humbling truth that “each
person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”
This will end the blame game, and it will send us pleading for Christ’s
mercy and grace.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

obama reads my blog

hope and change: the lowercase for vice president!!

it would seem senator barack obama reads my blog!
from worldnet daily:

Some have been taking issue with largely unnoticed
comments made last year by Sen. Barack Obama
declaring the U.S. is "no longer a Christian
nation" but is also a nation of others, including Muslims and
"Whatever we once were, we're no longer a Christian
nation. At least not just. We are also a Jewish nation,
a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu
nation, and a nation of nonbelievers," Obama said
during a June 2007 speech available on YouTube

see! i told you .. just go back and read yesterdays post! i said these words
"this notion of america being a christian has got to go. that label is not true."

so.. you heard it here first... "barack obama reads the lowercase and agrees with stephen cavness."

obviously i am joking. (among other reasons...his remarks were made last year) the senator's purpose for his remarks is not in the pursuit of religious truth, but rather political gain. (just as any politician of any
party is prone to do)
he goes on to say:

"Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped
being used to bring us together and started being used
to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it's because of
the so-called leaders of the Christian Right, who've been
all too eager to exploit what divides us," he said

now, many people who are lumped into the "christian right" i have little in common with, so my purpose is not to defend that label. my point is to show yet another example of tolerance being redefined as "do not say anyone is wrong, much less live as if your moral claims are absolutes".

i am all for being "together" with my fellow americans. we can and should be cordial and friendly with those with different beliefs. we can disagree without hating those we disagree with. but let us move past this silly notion that tolerating something or someone means we must validate those beliefs- and that anything less is "intolerable".

Monday, June 23, 2008

american religion:"3,000 miles wide and...three inches deep"

a new survey was just released further exposing the astonishing (and tragic) state of this one nation "under god".

the pew forum on religion and public life has released part II of its study of america's religious beliefs and practices. (i referenced findings from part I here).

among the findings [quoted from this associated press article] of 35,000 u.s. adults:

America remains a nation of believers, but a new survey
finds most Americans don't feel their religion is the only
way to eternal life — even if their faith tradition teaches

In all, 70 percent of Americans with a religious affiliation
shared that view, and 68 percent said there is more than
one true way to interpret the teachings of their own religion.

Nearly across the board, the majority of religious Americans
believe many religions can lead to eternal life:
mainline Protestants (83 percent), members of historic black
Protestant churches (59 percent), Roman Catholics
(79 percent), Jews (82 percent) and Muslims (56 percent).

By similar margins, people in those faith groups believe in multiple
interpretations of their own traditions' teachings. Yet 44 percent
of the religiously affiliated also said their religion should preserve
its traditional beliefs and practices.

d. michael lindsay sums up these findings quite well by saying:
"The survey shows religion in America is, indeed, 3,000 miles
wide and only three inches deep"

the report has generated among some the notion that the findings may be a
positive indication of a healthy growing "tolerance" in america - a view held
by c. welton gaddy, president of the interfaith alliance who was quoted in the associated press article as saying:

"It shows increased religious security. People are
comfortable with other traditions even if they're
different... It indicates a level of humility about
religion that would be of great benefit to everyone."

i guess i fail to see how being comfortable with other religions is somehow at odds with my caring more about the state and eternal destiny of their soul.

roger s. oldham, vice president for convention relations of the southern baptist convention (and my friend and former pastor) expresses a similar exasperation of the misuse of the idea of "tolerance".

"If by tolerance we mean we're willing to engage or embrace
a multitude of ways to salvation, that's no longer evangelical
belief," he said. "The word 'evangelical' has been stretched so
broadly, it's almost an elastic term."

our culture seems to celebrate being "open" to the possibility that religions other than one's own are just as valid and that more than one claim to religious truth need not be in opposition.
that is utter nonsense. i have written about this before here, here, and here, so for now i will not rehash this absurd redefining of the word "tolerance".

the issue here is the notion of being able to apply one's own meaning to words and labels.
it is not by saying "i am a christian" -whatever that means to the individual that one goes to heaven. it is by faith in alone in christ alone that we are saved. if what we mean when we say "christian" is not what the bible means when it teaches of being a follower of christ, then we are not, in the true and historic sense of the word a christian. but our culture has given us the bravado to redefine and determine meanings of words-to be as inclusive as possible. accept everyone into everything, reject no one from anything (except those who reject your beliefs).

what these reports are making more and more clear is not "new" news. the bible tells us that there will be people who expect that they have found the way to god, but because they did not repent of their sins and believe in the lord jesus christ (and him alone) that they will spend an eternity in hell. (yes.. i said the hell word.. it is real.. it exists. we ought not be ashamed to believe in that which jesus spoke very frequently of).

this notion of america being a "christian nation" has got to go. that label is not true. when overwhelming numbers of people who claim to be christian deny the basic and non-negotiable aspects of christianity we should stop using that label as a badge of honor and instead be broken over it.

the next time we are at a ballgame or gathering where "god bless america" is sung... instead of taking pride in being a "christian nation", perhaps we should be terrified that our nation is rapidly becoming one of the most spiritually lost and confused nations in the world... more corinth than paradise. and rather than sing/pray "god bless america" maybe we should fall to our knees and pray "god, have mercy on and save america".

Friday, June 20, 2008

christians who deny the deity of christ?

over the past 15 months i have preached through the gospel of john, 1, 2, and 3 john. john had a lot to say about the deity of christ and who he was. he also had a lot to say about avoiding false teachers and teachings.

with that in mind, take a look at some quotes from the cooperative baptist fellowship general assembly in memphis, tn. this past week. (read the whole story here from baptist press)

"Now we are reevaluating and we're approaching
everything with a humbler perspective and seeing
God's hand working in Christ, but not necessarily
as the incarnate God in our midst," Killinger said.
"Now, that may be hard for you to hear depending
on where you are coming from, but we can talk
more about it."

"Doctrine isn't the driving force to many people today"
except "to the fundamentalists who insist on it," Killinger said.
"But doctrine is a thing of the past now religiously".

There's an altered view of Scripture and of the role of Christ,"
he said of Christianity in today's world. "Christ is still Savior
to most of us, but maybe in a slightly different way than before."

"I'm just suggesting that I think we need to be a little less
certain about what Jesus meant, what He was about, what
His life and work were about. I think we're reevaluating all that.
"For example, Jesus did not conceive of Himself as the Savior
of the world and may not have viewed Himself a sacrifice at
all until the crucifixion, Killinger said

Killinger said he benefits from the mystical experience of
reading John's Gospel privately but cannot advocate John's
high view of Christ in serious preaching or scholarship.
"There are moments when I can do that privately and
mystically myself," Killinger said of benefiting from John.
"But at the same time, in terms of the cultural development
of Christianity, I have to look at what the scholars are saying
about the first three Gospels."

The pastors also said they did not disbelieve in an afterlife
but were not overly concerned about it, Killinger said. When
asked whether they thought people of other world religions
are going to hell, the pastors replied that they did not think
in terms of heaven and hell, he said.

During the same workshop June 19, Killinger said the Old
Testament book of Daniel "fibbed a lot." Even though Daniel
claims to be written earlier, it was actually written in the
second century B.C., he said, and pretends to prophesy
about events that occurred previously.

"The scholars almost all admit Daniel fibbed a lot because,
as a book, it was actually written in one time and set back
in time to make it look as if the prophecies it made came true,"
Killinger said. "That would validate other prophecies it
was going to include, you see. So that's cheating a bit."

i am not sure what "scholars" this man is speaking of, but i know that it is not "almost all".

i have said it before and i say it again, we must be *clear* about who god is, who jesus is, and what the gospel is. there are many false teachers and teachings out in teh world that are disguised as "christian". let us not be led astray, and seek to keep others from being led astray as we seek the truth in the bible that does not "fib".

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

free book wednesday

i am a firm believer in and promoter of the reading of good books. if i could enact one major change in today's church, it would be that church members would embrace reading good books that are healthy for the soul-books that inform, teach, answer, and compel us onward in growth.

unfortunately, a lot of people who hear that react as if i had recommended a strict diet of prunes and castor oil. i understand that not everyone is an avid reader or even enjoys reading in their spare time. i am not suggesting that everyone build a personal library of hundreds of books. but surely the care and nurture of our souls and coming to a better understanding of our faith is something that we can apply the same amount of time and energy that we devote to televison, internet, or other recreational time consumption. even the slowest reader can read an above average length book in one month if they just read ten pages a day.

[over on the side bar is a link to view books from my own library. feel free to browse the titles and authors and ask for suggestions. some books i have read because i disagree with the author or viewpoint, so because a book is in my library does not necessairily mean i would recommend it.]

so in the spirit of reading, i will be giving away books from time to time starting today with this one:

"Five Who Changed the World is a compelling book by
Daniel Akin that walks believers through five key texts
of Scripture, illustrating the truths contained therein by
sharing the biographies of five missionaries who changed
the world through their dedication to the Great Commission.
You will meet and learn from the lives of William Carey,
Adoniram Judson, Lottie Moon, Bill Wallace, and Jim Elliot."
-from the southeastern seminary president's page

reading about church history is one of the best ways to develop an understanding and appreciation for the church and the truths that it stands for as well as the importance of its mission.

the first person to respond to this post will get a free copy of this book. the only cost is promising you'll read the whole thing!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"conventional" thoughts

monday through wednesday of this past week my wife christi and i were in indianapolis for the annual meeting of the southern baptist convention.

i have been a southern baptist my whole life, my great-grandfather and grandfather were southern baptist ministers, as is my father. but as a 4th generation baptist minister, this was the first convention i have attended.

over 7,000 messengers attended the convention from all over the country. it was a sight to see... but made me wonder what an overwhelming sight the convention must have been in the past, when their have been upwards of 30 and 40,000.
from an informal "visual" survey, i would say that at least 60% of those attending were over 50 years old. that should say something about the state of involvement (attitude of apathy?) of the younger sbc generation.

my resolution on the public disassociation with fred phelps and westboro baptist church (full text here) did not make it through the committee and onto the floor, but some of the westboro folks showed up at the convention.

[of all of the sad things about these people who have been deceived and are so filled with hate, one of the worst is the children in these photos... being raised to believe this venom... lord please open their hearts... (2 thes. 3:5) ]

my wife and i were able to meet up with my dad, her aunt and uncle, and several friends and also made some new acquaintances. dr. tom nettles, who has been a great professor, mentor, and friend for several years now, graciously gave us tickets to the southern seminary luncheon and asked us to be guests at his table. we were glad to accept and while at the table we were able to meet and converse with, among others, tom ascol and his wife donna, and bill and karen ascol. it was a wonderful lunch filled with both serious discussion and laughter (some of which was due to my knocking my water over.)

dr. ascol's efforts to have an sbc resolution calling for repentance for the failure to maintain integrity in church membership finally came to fruition as an estimated 2/3 of the messengers voted to accept this much needed resolution. i encourage everyone to read the resolution in full and spread the word to your local church and pastor.
read the full resolution here.

other resolutions were made and passed. those can be found here.

there were 23 motions made, which can be found here, some of which were passed on to committee, some of which were not.

i did not agree with everything said, done, or decisions to affirm or decline (like the decline of my own resolution!)- but what i did come away with was a desire to see more southern baptists, especially those under 50 yrs. old involved in the process.

next year's convention will be in louisville, ky. i encourage anyone who is a member of a southern baptist church ask to be a messenger to the convention for your church or at least to make sure that your church sends its full number of messengers. it would be wonderful to have 40,000 in louisville in 2009 as southern baptists seek to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

lost in translations...

another common question i receive is..

How Should I Choose a Bible Translation?

  • Should be based on the best available and most reliable
    Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.
  • Based on the latest (most accurate) knowledge of
    language and culture.
  • Maintains a healthy balance of accuracy and
  • Remains dignified. (no irreverence in the way
    content is treated or delivered)
  • Avoids bias

***types of approaches to translations:

Formal Equivalency - a word for word translation (New King James, New American Standard, English Standard Version)

Dynamic Equivalency - a thought-by-thought translation (New International Version, New Living Translation)

Paraphrase – A translation based on a “how I would say it” approach not usually dependent on original languages. (The Message and the like)

as for me, i most often use the nasb or esv for bible study because i want to know word for word what was said. sometimes meaning can become less clear when translated thought by thought. this does not mean that dynamic equivalency is bad or useless. i will often read parts of the old testament (leviticus through deuteronomy and sometimes the psalms) from the new living translation.

regardless of which translation you use (assuming it is a valid translation-one of the ones mentioned above or based on similar criteria) the point is spending time reading, meditating and applying the scriptures. only then will we be "...transformed by the renewing of our minds"

Friday, May 30, 2008

learning how to read...

[continuing the discussion started here, and continued here and here]

along with "where did the bible come from?", i am often asked related questions pertaining to bible study.
"how do i study scripture?"
"how do i understand what i read?"
"how can i know i am not doing it wrong?"

below is an outline of things to keep in mind when studying scripture. i will break each point down over the course of the next week or so...

How Do I Read/Study the Bible?

  • The starting point is NOT
    “What does this verse mean to me ?”
    Avoid this type of interpretation
    in your own Bible study and from others.
  • Context is king! to ensure that you are
    properly understanding the point of the
    passage, keep the following things in mind
    as you read:
    Who was the author?
    Who was he writing to?
    Why was he writing this?
  • Know the literary genre (poetry,
    wisdom literature, hyperbole, parable,
    personal correspondence, apocalyptic, etc.)
    Each genre has its own rules of interpretation.
  • Meaning - Based on the above criteria,
    determine what message the original author
    wanted his original audience to get-that is what
    the passage means.
  • Seek out implications for your life from what
    the text means. (as opposed to making the meaning
    an implication)

Recommended Resource:
A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible: Playing by the Rules. Robert Stein. Baker, 1997.

According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible. Graeme Goldsworthy. Intervarsity Press, 2002.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"it's greek (and hebrew) to me!"

part 3 of series starting here , read part II here


We have briefly covered the origins of scripture, but how did it get from hebrew and greek to the english version we own? The following is a brief outline of the history of the Bible came to be translated into English.

· 315 A.D. - Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, identifies the 27
books of the New Testament

· 405 – Jerome translates the Latin Bible (Vulgate)

· The Bible of the “common people” took shape in the form
of wood carvings, stain glass windows, etc.

· 1382 – 1st English translation by John Wycliffe (handwritten)

· 1414 – Capital Punishment is declared for reading Scripture in
one’s native tongue. In 1428, Wycliffe’s bones were dug up and burned

· 1454 – printing press invented

· 1526 – William Tyndale published first printed New Testament

· 1530’s – Martin Luther works on German Bible

· 1535 - Miles Coverdale prints first full English Bible, burned
at the stake in 1536

· 1560 – Geneva Bible : first Bible in America, used by Pilgrims
and the Puritans, also by Shakespeare

· 1611 – after Henry VIII's breaking away from the Roman
Catholic Church and the formation of the Anglican church,
they printed their own Bible under the reign of James-the
King James Version. (many errors made, revised many times

· 1881 – English Revised edition

· 1901 – The American Standard

· 1952 – Revised Standard Version

· 1963 – New American Standard

· 1978 – New International Version

· 1982 – New King James Version

· 1989 – New Revised Standard Version

· 2001 – English Standard Version

· 2004 – Holman Christian Standard Version

As Americans, the fact that we have our own Bibles, and for many of us,
multiple copies, should give us pause. People were killed for trying to give
a copy of the Bible to people in their own language. There are people who
are killed for owning copies, and who make great sacrifices just to read a
few pages.

Last year, a professor last year read an email account from a missionary
telling of a boy with no arms who walked miles through the jungle to get
just a portion of the new testament. he made his way through the jungle
(with no arms!) to the river where the missionaries were, had them place
a copy on his shoulder where he tilted his head down to hold it, and started
on his journey back home.

We are greatly blessed to be able to have copies of God’s revelation
readily available. Shame on us if we take it for granted, do not read it,
or do not live it.

For further Reasearch and Study:
The Journey from Texts to Translations: The Origin and
Development of the Bible, Paul D. Wegner, Baker Academic, 2004.

The Story of Christianity Justo Gonzalez, Prine Press, 1999.

The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development,
and Significance, Bruce Metzger. Oxford University Press, 1997.

Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bibles Accuracy, Authority and
Authenticity, James R. White. Bethany House, 2004.

Scripture Alone: The Evangelical Doctrine R.C. Sproul and
Keith Mathison. P&R Publishing, 2005.

[i] See James R. White’s The King James Only Controversey,
Bethany House, 1995.

Friday, May 23, 2008

the old and the new

[continued from this post...]

What we refer to, as “the Bible” are the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.
Those books are:
Old Testament
Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy
Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2Samuel 1Kings 2Kings
1Chronicles 2Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Esther Job Psalms
Proverbs Ecclesiastes Song of Solomon Isaiah Jeremiah
Lamentations Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah
Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah

New Testament
Matthew Mark Luke John Acts Romans 1 Corinthians
2Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians
1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy
Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter
1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation

The bible is divided into two sections known as The Old Testament and
The New Testament. (“Testament” is just another word for “Covenant”).
Thus, the Old Testament is the account and record of God and His people
during the Time of the Old Covenant (Adam and Eve to Abraham up until
approximately 400 years before the birth of Christ), and the New Testament
covers the life, death, and ressurection of Christ, through the ministry of the

The Old Testament

The Old Testament (“tanak”, formed by taking the first letter of each section;
“torah”, “nevii”, and “kethuvim”) was originally written in Hebrew,
with some sections in Aramaic. The “torah” or books of the law were written
by Moses around 1400 B.C. The law is made up of the first five books of the
Old Testament, Genesis through Deuteronomy. The books of the prophets
or “neviim, were finished around 430 B.C., with Malachi.
The “writings”, the poetry and wisdom literature known as the “kethuvim”,
round out the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, the Old Testament is often referred to by Jesus
and the apostles as “the law and the prophets”, “the writings”, or “as Moses
said” (the law).
(Matt 23:1-3; Luke 16:28-31; Luke 24:25, 44 for just a small sample)

The Old Testament as we have it has been recognized as complete and
authoritative from as early as 170 A.D. -as can be demonstrated by the
writings of Melito, Bishop of Sardis:
When I came to the east and reached the place where
these things were preached and done, and learnt
accurately the books of the Old Testament, I set
down the facts and sent them to you. These are
their names: five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus,
Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son
of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kingdoms, two
books of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, the Proverbs
of Solomon and his Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of
Songs, Job, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, the
Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra. [i]

The order that Christians follow in our Old Testament is the order of
the early Greek translation called the Septuagint (“LXX”), translated
about 250 B.C.

So what were the criteria for counting certain writings Scripture
and not others? In summary, the following were essentials:
· Anything revealed by God and recorded by Moses
· Books written by true Prophets (as defined by Deuteronomy 18)
· Writings that were consistent with the character of God
· Books received and used by the congregation of the people of Israel.

These sacred writings were carefully copied and preserved by Jewish scribes.
In 1947, fragments of every Old Testament book but Esther were found in
caves in Qumran dating as far back as the 3rd century B.C.

The New Testament
Originally written in Greek, with some Aramaic, the books of
the New Testament are:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians,
2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians,
1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus,
Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter 1 John, 2 John, 3 John,
Jude, Revelation.

Why these books? F.F. Bruce puts it best when he writes:
What is particularly important to notice is that the
New Testament canon was not demarcated by the
arbitrary decree of any Church Council. When at last
a Church Council – the Synod of Hippo in AD 393 –
listed the 27 books of the New Testament,
it did not confer upon them any authority which
they did not already possess, but simply recorded
their previously established canonicity.

(The Books and the Parchments, pp. 112-113.)[ii]
This is an important point to make and so bears repeating. The Church did not arbitrarily decide what was scripture and what was not. Rather, they tookthe collections of writings that they had and simply recognized what already
possessed authority. Authority was derived from:
  • having been written by an Apostle or a close associate of
    an apostle (Luke with Paul and mark with Peter)
  • having been in continuous use by the Church
  • having unity/agreement with the rest of Scripture

While there are no original copies of these documents, consider this:

  • There are 5, 300 known copies and fragments in the
    original Greek, nearly 800 of which were copied before 1000 A.D.
  • By contrast, Homer’s Iliad, one of the most famous literary
    works of Western civilization has 643 copies of manuscript
    support. Within those, there are 764 lines of text that are
    disputed as to the accuracy, whereas there are only 40 lines
    in all of the New Testament that are disputed, none of which
    would compromise a major doctrine of Scripture.[iii]
  • In fact, many people are unaware that each of William
    Shakespeare’s 37 plays (written in the 1600’s) have gaps
    in the surviving manuscripts, forcing scholars to “fill in the blanks”.
  • This pales in textual comparison with the over 5,300
    copies and fragments of the New Testament that, together,
    assure us that nothing is lost.
  • All of the New Testament except eleven verses can be
    reconstructed from the writings of the early church fathers
    in the second and third centuries.[iv]

With these things in mind, not to mention the wealth of internal testimony
of Scripture, we can be sure that the Scriptures we have have been kept
from dilution or error.

It is important to note that these 66 books are the only ones recognized by
the Early Church as authoritative. Some other religions or denominations
may include other books collected under the title “Apocrypha”, or have
additional authoritative books or manuals such as the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints’ (the non-christian religion known as the
Mormons) Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.

Also made popular by the recent Davinci Code book and movie of the same
name, the Gnostic gospels have been getting a lot of attention-particularly
the so-called "Gospel" of Thomas. These books are not Scripture, and as
such, are not binding as the word of God. To explore these other writings
and discuss why they are not Scripture is a worthy task, and has been done

[i] Cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26.14
[ii] F.F. Bruce,The Books and the Parchments,Fleming
H. Revell Company; Rev Updated edition, 1984, pp. 112-113
[iii] Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody, Chicago, 1986, p.367.
[iv] Ibid, Ch.24

to be continued....

Thursday, May 22, 2008

pray for steven curtis chapman and his family...

one of the daughters, age 5, of steven curtis chapman and his wife, mary beth, was struck by a car driven by their son, and died wednesday.

read the story here

i cannot imagine the grief of losing a child in any circumstance... and my heart especially goes out to the brother who will no doubt live with "what if"'s for the rest of his life.

the song, "with hope", written by chapman after the heath high school shootings in paducah, ky. in 1997 resonate again ...

"with hope"
This is not at all
how we thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We had so many dreams
And now you've gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you, but ...

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope'
Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope'
Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place
where we'll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God's plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father's smile and say well done
And I imagine you Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true'
Cause now you're home And now you're free,

We can cry with hope
We can say goodbye with hope'
Cause we know our goodbye is not the end, oh no
And we can grieve with hope'
Cause we believe with hope
(There's a place by God's grace)
There's a place
where we'll see your face again

We have this hope as an anchor'
Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true,
So we can cry with hope
And say goodbye with hope

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

the b-i-b-l-e

as a pastor and seminary student, i am often asked which bible translation i use and why, and what i recommend for others.

in recommending bible translations, another question that comes up is "how did what moses, the old testament prophets, jesus, and the apostles wrote make it into my leather bound copy of "the bible".

i have written about this topic before for an on-line magazine,, but will revisit it here.

i will divide this up into more than one post, but to get us started...

As Evangelical Christians, inheritors of the Protestant Reformation,
which reclaimed the truth of “Sola Scriptura” (scripture alone), the
Bible is our sole source of Authority. No Popes, creeds, councils, or
other decrees of man supercede the authority of what God has revealed
to us through His word.

God has not left His people to wander aimlessly through life wondering
what it is they are to do and how they are to do it. We are not like the
prophets of Baal who cut themselves in a desperate attempt to
communicate with their God.

We know what pleases Him, and we know what displeases Him.
Our God has spoken clearly to us through His Word, the Bible.
We can know God because He has revealed Himself. We can feel
confident in what we know because neither He nor His word ever
change. We are not governed by emotions or opinions that are always
coming and going and developing. We are not left
under the dictates of men who age, die, and make mistakes.

As John Armstrong puts it;
The authority of the Scripture, then, is not located
in human brilliance or witness. It is not found in the
person of Moses, Paul, or Peter. The authority is f
ound in the sovereign God Himself. The God who
"breathed out"4 the words through human writers
stands behind every statement, every doctrine,
every promise and every command written in
the Scripture.[i]

Scripture itself speaks to the importance of God’s Word. in its existance, uses and application. For example:

…and that from childhood you have known
the sacred writings which are able to give
you the wisdom that leads to salvation
through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is inspired by God and
profitable for teaching, for reproof, for
correction, for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate,
equipped for every good work
(2 Timothy 3:15-17)

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the
prophets in many portions and in many ways, in
these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom
He appointed heir of all things, through whom also
He made the world (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (John 17:17)

For the word of God is living and active and
sharper than any two-edged sword, and
piercing as far as the division of soul and
spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able
to judge the thoughts and intentions of the
heart (Hebrews 4:12)

The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise
the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;The commandment of the
LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear
of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;The
judgments of the LORD are true; they are
righteous altogether.(Psalm 19:7-9)

Now these were more noble-minded than those in
Thessalonica, for they received the word with great
eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see
whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

How can we be obedient to God when we don’t know what is asked of us?
How can we worship a God we do not know? How can we be saved without
the Gospel being explained? All of these answers are found in the Bible.
Indeed, most of us would agree Scripture is essential to the Christian life.

But how can we be sure that the book that we carry to Church with us and
read during our devotional times is what God intended for us to have?
How did God’s word go from old parchments written in foreign languages
to nice and neatly bound books in our own language? Why are there so
many different versions?
to be continued.....

[i] John H. Armstrong .Chapter 4 Sola Scriptura!:The Protestant Position on the Bible. Don Kistler,
General Editor ,Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1994.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

fred phelps, hating homosexuals, and sbc resolutions

this week i will be submitting a resolution to be considered for vote at this years annual meeting of the southern baptist convention. i have posted before about the disgraceful westboro baptist church and their "leader" fred phelps here. as they continue to pop up in the news, i couldn't help but wonder about the potential thousands (millions) who see the name "westboro road baptist church" and assume that they belong and are an accurate representation of every other baptist church they know of. so, i drew up this proposal:


WHEREAS, Fred Phelps and members of the Westboro Baptist
Church frequently picket funerals with hate filled language and signage; and

WHEREAS, The highly publicized website for this Baptist church
is ; and

WHEREAS, The attitude, approach, language, and behavior displayed
publicly and in the media by Mr. Phelps and members of his congregation
are frequently in violation of explicit commands of Scripture of holy and
righteous living above reproach, even when confronting sin; and

WHEREAS, The designation of “Baptist” in the name of such an
organization and its claim to be “..the mouth of God”
[i] can bring
shame and reproach on the Gospel, as well as other entities with
the name Baptist; and

WHEREAS, The national media fails to distinguish between churches
belonging to the Southern Baptist Convention and Westboro Baptist
Church; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention
meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 10-11, 2008, firmly and publicly
clarify that neither Fred Phelps nor Westboro Baptist Church are
members of or representatives of the Southern Baptist Convention, nor
do we recognize their methods of protest or as appropriate or biblical.

[i] - front page under “Welcome, Depraved Sons and Daughters of Adam”

i don't know if the committee will pass this through or not, but we'll see.
we can be against sin without speaking against it sinfully. i would hate
for someone to dismiss me (or worse, the gospel!) because some
other "baptist" or "church" (both terms used very loosely) is acting

from my earlier post on this topic :

the web address to the westboro baptist church is
yes... that's what it says. it is a site full of the most disgusting
perversions of the truth i have ever read and it makes me furious,
and it makes me want to weep. they dishonor the name of christ
with what they say and teach. it breaks my heart to think of how
many people will refuse to listen to the gospel because of what these
"christians" and "baptists" have said, which is neither baptist nor christian.

yes homosexuality is a sin, but so is the hate and vitriol that
they have made the cornerstone of their ministry. the death
of homosexuals need not be picketed and jeered with such
repulsive signs and slogans. rather we should reach out with
compassion and extend the offer of grace even
as we demonstrate the grace shown to us.

this is one example of why we must be clear about what we
believe. this is why we must define our terms. this is why
we must know doctrine and theology. if we dont, then what
do we say to someone who's only encounter with christianity
is with these hatemongers who spew false teachings and
venom through their website, picket signs, and their church?
what do we say when they ask what is different from us and
these other christians (and baptists)?

this church disgusts me and it saddens me. i pray that the lord would
grant for them repentance and for me a heart that wants to pray for
grace rather than judgment on them. praise god that he is in control and
no one, no matter how outrageous and contrived can thwart his will.

if there are any homosexuals who read this blog, please hear me.
this church and their teachings are *NOT* an accurate representation
of christianity or more specifically, of baptists. the bible does teach that
homosexuality is a sin. but all men are sinners in need of the grace of god.

true christianity will never insult you, or ridicule you, or rejoice in
your death. jesus taught love and compassion as well as repentance.
as a christian and baptist pastor i would say to you as a homosexual,
that i am in as much need for grace as you are. i am no better than
you. we are all in need of the grace of god that is available only through
faith in jesus christ.

i do not hate you. i want to share with you how to experience the
greatest love imaginable, not so that you would be like me, but so
that you can know god. please contact me at anytime and i would
love to share with you how. please do not reject christ because of
those who wrongfully go by his name.

Monday, May 05, 2008

free books and daily prayer..

a couple of housekeeping things..

i have wanted to give away copies of some of the books that i reference here or that i have found to be very beneficial in my own spiritual growth. while i wont be able to do this very often, i hope to be able to do this at least 3 or four times a year. sometimes it may be more frequently than others.. so just keep a look out for it.

secondly, i have added a link to the right side of this site that gives a unreached people group to pray for each day. i hope that you will find it useful. we often forget about all of the nations that are not on the nightly news each week. hopefully this will help you as well as me in remembering to pray for the spread of the gospel over the whole world.

my semester is winding down and i hope to be able to post with more regularity. i appreciate the comments, emails, and other interactions. in less than two years this site has received almost 15,000 visits. thanks so much for stopping by.

Friday, May 02, 2008

...but it does show god's love

to show the proverbial "other side of (the same) coin... "

i maintain everything i wrote in the last post... but i do want to emphasize that the gospel being about god's glory is not at odds with his love for us.
we are indeed loved by god-and we can't even fathom the extent of it. (ephesians 3:14-19)
one of my favorite hymns is "how deep the father's love fo rus" by stuart townend. if you arent familiar with him, or his often collabrative friends keith and kristyn getty, go ye therefore and educate thyself.
this song gives us a scriptural, and therefore god exalting reminder of the lord's love for us.

"how deep the father's love for us"
words and music by stuart townend

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the gospel is not all about you

as any pastor can tell you, the amount of weekly " preacher junk mail" can be staggering. i am convinced that catalogues full of merchandise guaranteed to "grow my church" that come to my church or my home address are the single largest cause of deforestation.

in a sad commentary on how much we are willing to compromise the gospel in order to get people in the pews, i present to you one such product.. meant to be mailed out close to easter to get the unchurched in to church on easter sunday.

even worse, here is the "suggested message" for the reverse side of the card:
discover a love that was all about you
the 'me' generation, myspace, ipods, internet
sites that instantly recognize your login and
preferences-in this day and age the focus
seems to be on self. and, sometimes we
question whether that is a good thing. but, on
easter long ago, even god made it all about you.
jesus came to earth out of a great love-for you.
join us this easter at (your church name)
as we make it all about you-in the very best of ways.

i am not at all opposed to missions and evangelism. how could i be? our lord commands it, and christian love compels it. i am not opposed to unbelievers coming to my church. i have visited many homes and written many letters in hopes that they would.

but i draw the line at compromising the gospel in order to convince someone to come to church. the church does not exist to make much of man, but to make much of the glory of god.

yes, i believe john 3:16, as well as the many, many other verses that speak of god's love for us are 100% true. the lord has a greater love for his children than we could ever imagine. but the cross was not first and foremost about me or you. it was and is about god.

you see, the gospel is not "jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life". the gospel is not "come to jesus and he will take away all of your troubles". you will not find those presentations of the gospel anywhere in scripture. we need to stop getting our theology from cheesey christian music lyrics and bumper stickers and get the gospel from the bible.

every person who has ever been born, has been born a sinner, an enemy of god and an object of god's wrath deserving of hell by virtue of their being a sinner. that is biblical fact. (rom. 3:10-12;6:23; john 3:36; eph. 2:3)

gospel means "good news". the good news is not that we were so lovable that god saved us from bad circumstances. the good news is that "... while we were yet sinners, christ died for us." (rom. 5:8) we deserved the wrath of god, but jesus went to the cross to appease that wrath, to endure the punishment, so that "whosoever would believe in him" would have eternal life. (rom. 3:21-25 ; john 3:16) jesus took on the consequences of sin, and his righteousness is credited to the believer.(1 peter 3:18)

so what happens when we tell the unbeliever that easter and the cross is all about them? they come to our church and find that we sing songs about, pray to, give money to, and (hopefully) preach about christ, *not* them. we have given them false advertisement. we promised to make much of them, then fell through on our end of the deal. then we scratch our heads and wonder why they don't come back.

yes, salvation is a sign of the love god has for us, but the cross is not about *us*. the cross makes much of god's justice and mercy and glory and grace. god gets the glory, and we get the benefit. the cross is about the wonder of an infinitely holy god providing salvation for unworthy sinners who deserve nothing but justice-hell.

so let us be honest about the gospel. by all means, we should evangelize. but the good news is not "its all about you".
the good news is that:

"though we are all sinners who deserve nothing but hell, christ has died so that if anyone will repent of their sins and believe that he is the lord of lords, who lived a perfect life, was crucified, died, and was buried, and on the third day rose again, having satisfied the wrath of god for their sins and having his righteousness applied to them, then they can be saved". (rom. 5:18;10:9)

*that* is the gospel. it needs to be shared indiscrimmantly with everyone. it is a matter of life and death, and we dare not get it wrong.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

why i'm not simply "christian"

in the day of on-line communities and our cultures obsession with self-evaluation and list making, it is curious that one can so easily identify themselves by selecting ready made profile from a list of pre-labeled adjectives.

on facebook, myspace, or a host of other message boards, blogs, and other communities, it is not uncommon to see several people involved who have labeled themselves "christian", but who never seem to agree on anything regarding religious beliefs.

this has come into play in my life as well. when people ask me to come speak or preach, or write something for them, they usually ask for some kind of spiritual biography and statement of what i believe. this includes those within my own "denomination", the southern baptist convention.

unfortunately, those who have labeled themselves christian can disagree over the infallibility and sufficiency of scripture, not to mention varying views of what is and isn't sin.

there are churches who talk about "resurrection" who do not believe christ physically rose from the dead. but if you were to ask "do you believe in christ's resurrection?" "of course i do!" would be the enthusiastic response. this is because when they say christ was resurrected, they mean his spirit and teachings lived on through his disciples.. giving them "life".

of course words to have meaning. there is intended meaning, historical meaning and usage and others ways to know what is meant by words used. if this were not the case, communication through language would effectivley break down.
however, the fact remains that though words do have meaning, misuse and misapplied meanings result in confusion and misunderstanding which in turn demands the need for clarification.

because of this and the different circumstances this places me in, i have prepared a document that i send out when people inquire about my beliefs as a pastor.
(i added emphasis and links to references for purposes of this post...and because the situations in which i send this document are usually formal... the document uses capitalization.. i hope you are not disappointed, however, feel free to leave "sell-out" comments).

my hope is that this will encourage anyone who reads to think carefully about being clear when someone asks us what we believe. we may not always have time to go through an entire historical and theological presentation, but we can be careful to be explicit about our beliefs, and to not assume people understand what we mean if we just say "christian."

***this document is not meant to convey that only southern baptists can be christians, only to more accurately and directly represent my views on basic matters of the faith.

As a boy, I became a Christian when I repented of my
sins and placed my faith in Jesus Christ alone as my only
hope of salvation. Were it an ideal world, simply having the
title “Christian” would be sufficient enough to know what I
as a “Christian” believe and what I as a “Christian pastor”

Unfortunately, for thousands of years there have been
disagreements between those calling themselves “Christian”
on what should be even the most basic of Christian beliefs.
Because of this, it has become necessary to make further
distinctions in order to know with more certainty what a specific
“Christian” believes. One of these distinctions is made with the
title of Baptist.

I am a fourth generation Southern Baptist minister. My father
is a Southern Baptist minister, as was his father and my father’s
grandfather. As a Southern Baptist, I hold to and teach in
accordance with historic Southern Baptist beliefs such as
those represented in The Baptist Faith and Message

Due to the length of The Baptist Faith and Message , it's wide
range of topics, and potential confusion over previous revisions,
I have found it helpful to reproduce the enclosed document,
the Abstract of Principles, as an additional yet more concise
historic Southern Baptist confession and representation of my
doctrinal and theological views.

The Abstract of Principles is a document that was prepared by
James Boyce, the first president of the first seminary of the
Southern Baptist Convention - The Southern Baptist Theological
. This document was the first official confession
of faith ever endorsed by Southern Baptists.
Its message
and integrity has remained biblically solid throughout its 150 years.

It is my prayer that this document will assist you in knowing the
most basic of my beliefs and teachings as a Christian, a Southern
Baptist, and a pastor.

To God alone Be the Glory,
Stephen Lee Cavness

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

the results are in...and they sting a little

the anuual church profile of the southern baptist convention has released the findings from the year 2007. view the report here.

among the results:

number of churches: up 1.06% (473 new churches)
worship attendance: up 0.16% (up 10,092 people attending weekly worship services)
church membership: down 0.24% (down by 39,326 members)
number of baptisms: down 5.46% (down by 18,885 baptisms)

dr. roger s. ("sing") oldham, vice president for convention relations for the s.b.c.'s executive committee, offers a balanced look at the results here.

some excerpts:

The statistical profile generated from the Annual Church Profile
reports submitted by cooperating Baptist churches each year is a
numerical snapshot of what is happening at the local church level.
Though these numbers do not tell the whole story of ministry,
they have value for the Southern Baptist Convention in a number
of ways.
  • First, these numbers help us measure our overall
    effectiveness in terms of church planting and evangelism...
  • Second, these numbers help us see the continuing
    faithfulness of our churches in discipleship and nurture...
  • Third, these numbers help us gauge various levels of
    participation in specific ministries of the church...
  • Fourth, these numbers enable us to monitor church
    giving, stewardship and support for our primary
    ministries of missions at home and abroad...
  • Fifth, these numbers help us measure the total number
    of individuals who actively relate to churches as members...

he concludes:
Clearly, some of these numbers are disappointing. They
will provide an additional catalyst for evaluating how we
can better assist churches in fulfilling their ministries on
the local level. Other numbers continue to be encouraging.
At every level of Baptist life -– local church, associational,
state convention, and SBC -– we will be examining what
we can learn from these numbers as we seek to fulfill the
Great Commission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

ed stetzer, the director of research at lifeway christian resources and missiologist in residence offers his assessment here.
some highlights from his point of view:

Three issues rise to the top.
* First, we have to deal with the continued
loss of SBC leaders...

*second issue is the infighting which defines so
much of the SBC—its meetings, its churches, and its blogs.
It is public knowledge that we do not always settle our
differences amicably....

*The third, and most important, issue is our loss of focus
on the Gospel. I find it difficult to even say such a thing,
but, I believe it to be true.
We must recover a gospel centrality and cooperate in
proclaiming that gospel locally and globally...
The Conservative Resurgence failed to
produce a Great Commission Resurgence. It restored our
denomination’s value of Scripture but application is often
absent, at least in the area of evangelism.

i am sure that there will be much discussion in the coming weeks and month before the sbc annual meeting in indianapolis june 10-11. the reasons for decline in membership and baptisms will be as diverse as the number of people offering them.

as for me, pastor of a small church and seminary student, i have my own ideas and opinions.
one number that looks negative may, at least in part, actually be a positive-the decrease in membership.
i hope and pray that churches are starting to take membership seriously(read:"biblically") and are removing names from their church rolls of people who haven't been seen in years or are unwilling to actively participate as members. in the instances that this is the case, i would say that those instances are a sign of health.

of course even if churches being more honest about their actual membership is the reason for the decline, this decline can only be viewed as a positive if it is temporary. perhaps the lord will grant repentance and restoration to those who were dropped from the rolls and they would return back into fellowship as active and committed church members. additionally the numbers should increase due to those who are converted as a result of the proclamation of the gospel. we should pray to that end.

one thing is for sure, our time of bragging "16 million members strong" should cease, and hopefully be replaced with an urgency to learn, know, and spread the gospel.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the man of god...

[thank you for all of the prayers for my back. praise the lord he has sustained me and my back.. and the sensations that were making me nervous have subsided.. please continue with me in prayer that my back will be totally healed]

i recently came across this treasure from baptist preacher a.w. pink's (1886-1952) introduction to his book "the sovereignty of god".

i was equal parts rebuked, encouraged and blessed. may it have the same affect on you as well.

"...the man of faith brings in God, looks at everything from His
standpoint, estimates values by spiritual standards, and views
life in the light of eternity. Doing this, he receives whatever comes
as from the hand of God. Doing this, his heart is calm in the midst
of the storm. Doing this, he 'rejoices in hope of the glory of God.'"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

back (again)

i try not to post too much "personal information" on this blog, but i hope you dont mind this time...

as most of you know, i had a second back surgery in october of last year. (the first was in 1999).
since the surgery, things have gone extremely well. i completed a 6 week physical therapy effort and was released by them and then by my surgeon. (this was by the end of feb./first of march).

again, all has been well up until about a week ago. for the past week i have been feeling pain and discomfort in my lower back and some pain in my right leg. i think this is due to reaching over charlie's crib and picking him up while he was sleeping 6 times in one night (that is an even longer and traumatic story...just know that i had to.. didnt want to).

since then the pain has been growing in intensity and in the area affected.

after the surgery, the neurosurgeon was very confident that he had completey cleaned up the problem area in my lower back. so this leads me to believe that my current pain is due to a combination of things leading to the irritating of the nerve root that had received so much damage prior to surgery. because i have been mostly inactive since last july (when my back first went out) the added weight i have put on is causing too much stress on my lower back and bending over to get charlie so many times in one night caused the muscles to get weak, therefore causing any movements sense to irritate that nerve root. add to this the many, many hours i spend sitting in class, studying, and while at work, there is little "relief" for my lower back.

the chaos it puts me and my family in when my back goes out (missing work, school, preaching and other responsibilities at church [and the resulting loss of income]and my being unable to help with charlie) makes us cringe to even think that this current flare up may be indicative of anything worse to come.

i would like to ask all of you to join with me and christi in focused, concentrated prayer that the lord would heal and completely restore my back. i know that he is able. i also know that the lord uses prayer to accomplish his means.
(james 5:13-16; psalm 40:1; romans 8:26- 28).

i know each of you have a lot going on in your lives, so i do not think lightly of asking you to commit to this. i know that the lord is in control of this situation, and it is my prayer that he will use your prayers to heal my back and to bring glory to himself.

thank you all so much,

Saturday, April 05, 2008

give me christ or else i die...

on the heels of the last couple of posts.. i think this hymn will make a nice book end..

Christ, Or Else I Die
Taken from the Gadsby Hymnal # 737
Words - William Hammond, 1719-1783
Music - Drew Holcomb, 2004

Gracious Lord, incline thy ear;
My requests vouchsafe to hear;
Hear my never-ceasing cry;
Give me Christ, or else I die.

Wealth and honor I disdain,
Earthly comforts, Lord are vain;
These can never satisfy:
Give me Christ, or else I die.

All unholy and unclean,
I am nothing else but sin;
On thy mercy I rely;
Give me Christ, or else I die.

Thou dost freely save the lost;
In thy grace alone I trust.
With my earnest suit comply;
Give me Christ, or else I die.

Thou dost promise to forgive
All who in thy Son believe;
Lord, I know thou canst not lie;
Give me Christ, or else I die.

All unholy and unclean,
I am nothing else but sin;
On thy mercy I rely;
Give me Christ, or else I die.

© 2005 Red Mountain Music

for more amazing hymns set to more modern,[but not "contemporary"] music, check out the good folks at indelible grace and red mountain music.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

america is deathly sick... and we are spreading the germs

***warning, the following is the 2nd half of a long word document ramble that i have been writing for over 2 weeks...part I was posted before this is unedited and not at all *tidied up*, but i do hope you will join in conversation with me in the comments...

"america is deathly sick..."
our country celebrates a culture that embraces promiscuity, convenient divorces and remarriages, children outside of marriage, cohabitation, and sexual promiscuity. television, movies and even music are filled with images/imagery that contain language and /or images that would have caused outrage just twenty years ago (that would be 1988- not quite ozzie and harriet territory).

whether one thinks of these as positive, negative, or neutral indicators of our society, it cannot be denied that the rate at which our culture changes and becomes comfortable with those changes is remarkably fast. it has taken roughly two generations for our country to embrace what once repulsed it.

then there is the spiritual element. last month a report came out that included the following information:

** the number of people who say they are unaffiliated
with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than
double the number who say they were not affiliated with
any particular religion as children

**Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are
not currently affiliated with any particular religion.

**the United States is on the verge of becoming a minority
Protestant country

**one-quarter of [those calling themselves unaffiliated with
any religion] consists of those who describe themselves as
either atheist or agnostic
(1.6% and 2.4% of the adult population overall, respectively)

**the majority of the unaffiliated population (12.1% of
the adult population overall) is made up of people who
simply describe their religion as "nothing in particular."

even by our own admission, within southern baptist churches,
less than 40% of those on the church roll actually attend that church
where they are listed as a "member".

this is the "state of the union".

jeremiah wright's recent comments sparked a still raging outcry due to their anti-american and racially charged content- yet where is the outrage that the gospel was virtually absent from these sermons?

wright is by far not the only one. when we have "christian" preachers preaching everything else but the gospel, then we should spend little time wondering why the country is in such moral and spiritual decline.

"... and we are spreading the germs"
lest we, lest * i * place all of the blame at the feet of others... lets look inwardly...

how often do we spend even five minutes a day contemplating the state of our
own souls? (per 2 cor. 13:5; philippians 2:12;1 tim. 6:20-21)
how often do we take inventory of our lives and evaluate how our lives stand
up to what scriptures says a genuine believer looks like.
(see rom. 12, gal. 5, col. 3, james, etc.)
how much of what we knowingly do or don't do is contrary to the lord's will?

how often do we wait for someone in public office, on the school board, or at church to address those things that are wrong with other people - all the while being perfectly comfortable with our own hypocrisy? how much stock and emotional zeal do we exert convincing ourselves and others that candidate _______ or if only certain legislation would pass - that will restore america?

the only hope for america is jesus christ. and he is not on the ballot. but he is available to change and save lives if we would show less excitement for who won what ball game and more zeal for seeing our relatives care more about christ and holiness than seeing the next "must see" televison show or movie.

if you are sick of the direction america is taking... make a stand. don't be the friend or family member that excuses the spiritual laziness of the believers in your life. do not be the one who would rather feel accepted than plead with your friends or family to embrace christ every day of the week, not just those sundays that they make it to church. join with me in refusing to laugh at the inappropriate jokes and remarks made at family or friend gatherings and instead initiating conversations about those things of the lord.

and when the objections come- and they will... simply remind yourself and your hearers that one day, unless the lord comes first, we will die. our bodies will fail and we will stop breathing be but into a box and placed into a hole in the ground. and our souls -and the souls of those we care about - will go to either to heaven or hell.

if we , or they are believers, our souls will enter into the presence of the one true holy and mighty god... and he will not want to talk about last night's ball game or the scene in the movie that was pretty bad, but you just "had to laugh".

if we, or they, are not believers, there will be an eternity of deserved wrath, which may include an eternal replaying of all of the times we chose to amuse ourselves with finite mindless drivel rather than have a conversation about god or the gospel.