Friday, February 02, 2007

The Love of God

The first time I studied Ephesians 2 I was completely stunned at the depth and intensity of God’s love for His redeemed. These thoughts so captured my mind that I eventually wrote a little poem as part of my worship to the Tri-une Lover of my soul.

Over ten years and many other poems and hymns and songs later, that piece seems rather “cute” and simple now... but it still draws my thoughts heavenward with refreshing remembrances of a sovereign love first discovered. I suppose that is one of the blessings of writing something.

It was an encouragement to me today, so I post it here:

The Love of God
The love of God is like the sea,
O drowning me in grace.
And cleansing me from all my sin
That I might see His face.

The love of God is like the sun,
With mercy its own light.
Exposing all my wickedness,
Then standing me upright.

The love of God is like the air,
Without it I'd lay dead!
For by His love He makes me live,
And holds me to the End.

I see Your love in all You've made
It's pow'r cannot be hid.
So let creation call to mind
All that my Saviour did.

And help me, Lord, to love like You;
To die to self each day.
O, make my mark, my aim, my goal,
To walk the Saviour's way.

Words ©1996, Paul W. Martin

Not Cowper or Newton, but a goodly theme to think on nonetheless!

The Pastor as Leader - Part 3

The first two sections of this panel discussion can be found here.


Church discipline is something that is not really practiced today. What kinds of experiences of church discipline have you had and how do you deal with it? How do you discipline unsaved children? Is there a distinction between a baptized member of the church and unsaved children of members?

C: Yes. I wouldn’t discipline those who are not part of the church.

K: With regards to church discipline, there is the discipline of the preaching of the Word of God. If the Word is consistently preached and applied properly then you can avoid many problems. There is a gradation of church discipline. Excommunication is a last resort. If prior steps are taken properly, then that will not be the end result. If you’re speaking about unbelieving children, you can’t really discipline them. You need to preach the gospel to them. There is nothing more to be done beyond that.

C: You need to be careful about how you deal with children growing up in the church. It’s a balance between making it too easy and too hard for them to enter the kingdom of God. You need to counsel parents to be wise about how they deal with their child’s salvation.

K: Be careful that you don’t put children on a pedestal. Children who ended up in Bible college were exalted in the church and some of them are now apostate. The ones who were shunned are the ones that stayed the course to this day. We encourage our children to trust in Christ, but until they’re out the door and on their own you’ll never really know their spiritual state. You need to be careful. Often youth ministry is allowing children to believe they’re saved when they’re really not.

C: I highly recommend A Child’s Profession of Faith put out by Jim Elliff of Christian Communicators Worldwide.

K: Children often come to parents and talk about spiritual things. Children want to please and you need to be careful. At the same time, my wife believes she was saved when she was 6 years old. On the other hand, there were many times I responded to altar calls, but was not really converted.

C: For each of my children who wanted to be baptized, I had another elder examine the authenticity of their faith because I couldn’t trust my own motives.

K: You’re looking for God’s grace to be manifested at the age level appropriate to the child. I have baptized as young as 8 years old, but I was very careful about that.

There are sometimes very harsh cutoff between leaving the youth group and entering the ‘adult’ congregation. They reject all authority and don’t become members of the church because they want discipline.

K: There’s a spiritual problem

C: It probably manifests itself at home.

D: People who don’t want to become members are suspect. Their conversion is questionable.

C: You need to teach them. After you’ve taught them, they no longer have an excuse about what church membership means.

K: Baptism is a declaration of becoming part of the church. There is no distinction in the NT.

Do we blur the line between a church member and church attender?

P: What is your philosophy of membership? You don’t minister if you’re not a member.

D: You do have to be patient with people because culturally they are not accustomed to the idea of church membership. You need to allow people to grow in the Lord and give them time to accept the idea.

“Spiritual journey” is jargon that is floating around today. Their argument is something like, “When did Peter (the apostle) ever become converted?” How do we strike a balance between true conversion and people who are simply interested in spirituality?

K: Theologically, you need to be very careful about using the apostles as paradigms for conversion experiences. The disciples don’t come into that full new covenant awareness until the Holy Spirit is breathed upon them. There needs to be whole soul commitment to Christ (John Murray).

What should I be looking for in young people in terms of evidences of conversion, especially when their educational background is minimal?

K: Start with the basics.

C: You want to look for basic signs of life. Is there a desire to pray or know Christ or conviction of sin? There have to be some indications of change in their lives by their fruit.

K: Jesus Christ is a person. He calls us to follow Him. A Christian is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not someone who simply fills out a card. It is someone who commits to following Christ and obeying His commandments. Therefore, we need to tell people what the Bible insists on and then expect a response from there. If we use all the right words, if they’re not converted there is no point in teaching them to obey Christ.

D: Just continue to faithfully preach about Christ and talk about sin. Invite people to come and talk to you and take them through a gospel like Mark. God is sovereign and He will call people to Himself. We have to keep in mind that Jesus sometimes almost discouraged people from following Him, to count the cost and so on.

C: There is an urgency to preaching in the sense that you may never see them again.

K: Bill Hybels once said that when you’re talking to people about the gospel you are calling upon them to make the biggest decision of their lives. You need to give people enough information to make that decision and the time to make that decision. Jesus never hurried people into conversion, but taught them accordingly. When you’re asking people to come to Christ, you’re asking for the greatest thing that can ever occur.

C: Sometimes, God is doing things in people’s hearts that you may never know about.

P: There is great freedom to be a Calvinistic evangelist. You can confront people without any anxiety because it’s not up to you at all. George Whitefield wept for their sins because they wouldn’t themselves. It’s easy to despair early on in ministry because there is no fruit, but it will come.

K: Spurgeon was once criticized for not seeing people right after the service. But “if the fire is lit on Sunday it will stay lit on Monday and Tuesday.”

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A Church for the City

Reformation21 » A Church for the City:

"From Charles Spurgeon, 'The First Cry from the Cross':

'These places of worship are not built that you may sit here comfortably, and hear something that shall make you pass away your Sundays with pleasure. A church in London which does not exist to do good in the slums, and dens, and kennels of the city, is a church that has no reason to justify its longer existing. A church that does not exist to reclaim heathenism, to fight with evil, to destroy error, to put down falsehood, a church that does not exist to take the side of the poor, to denounce injustice and to hold up righteousness, is a church that has not right to be. Not for thyself, O church, dost thou exist, any more than Christ existed for himself. His glory was that he laid aside his glory. . . . . To rescue souls from hell and lead to God,, to hope, to heaven, this is [the church's] heavenly occupation. O that the church would always feel this!'"

The Pastor as Leader - Part Two

Part one of this leadership seminar can be found here. (Sorry it took so long to get to the next installment!)


On the topic of evangelism: Do you see a difference between pastor and evangelist?

K: Yes. I think there is a gifting in evangelistic ministry. In another sense, all pastors and Christians are responsible for sharing the gospel with others. There is an evangelistic gift. We sorely need people today who can preach the gospel to the lost in a way that people respond to positively. We have to seriously examine the 70-80% dropout rate from high school ministry to university/college ministry. We have to examine how much they really have known the truth. That’s an enormous problem. My wife works in a medical office for a year, and because of bad experiences people no longer attend the church.

C: I’d agree with Kirk. There is a gift. Would you say that there are people who are not pastors but have that gift? (addressing Kirk)

K: Yes. I would agree with that.

C: There are a couple of guys like that in our church. They are creative in the ways they share the gospel with others. You want to put these people into positions of leadership.

D: One of my problems with evangelism is its narrow track. It’s inviting people into your home. A pastor is an evangelist in proclaiming the gospel every Sunday, when you preach you’re speaking about the glory of God that encourages others to be passionate about sharing God with others. I believe that evangelists must also train to be pastors as well.

2 Tim 4.5, “Do the work of an evangelist.” What does that mean?

K: It is inviting people into your home. Yes. But it is also men like Ravi Zacharias who are challenging the ideologies of the day. It is making a compelling argument for Christ and causing people to come to Christ without just calling people to repentance.

D: It’s interesting that the context of that passage is “Preach the Word.” It is the gospel that saves people. When you’re preaching the Word, even to believers, you’re telling people about what they’re missing without Christ.

C: There is an office of evangelism, but all pastors need to be evangelists. People need to know that you love them and care about them. Don’t preach Christ in an indifferent way. You’re speaking about eternal life and eternal death. You better come across that way, even if they don’t agree with your approach. The gospel ministry is about life and death. Don’t get discouraged because you don’t see a lot of fruit.

Do you disagree with add-on evangelism, i.e. tacking on a plea to sinners at the end of a sermon?

P: Spurgeon points out that you need to be strategic about when to add the gospel in a message. The gospel must be kept precious. It is a danger to keep using the same catch phrases and turning people off to the core gospel message.

K: Absolutely. In a way, you cannot separate evangelism from what we say. Everything we say has an evangelistic thrust to it whether we’re speaking to Christians or non-Christians, what we say needs to speak of the gospel. Without falling prey to superficial relevance, our preaching needs to be driven by careful thought about where people are at and what people are thinking. A pastor can easily lose touch with the current trends of the time. The key is to keep in touch with the times. It’s not to say that we’re not experts to modern culture, but weave the gospel through that in a way that sticks in people’s minds. You have to at least be aware of what is going on.

Eph 4:11—Are these offices still around today? How many are there? Would you have evangelist as a church office?

K: The office of apostle is no longer in force. There is a progression in the NT. This is the cause of confusion in the charismatic circles. The only one that is valid is pastors and teachers. You don’t have apostles in the sense of the Twelve, but you do have leaders in the church, not in the sense of divinely inspired words. There is a compelling force of what seems to work (e.g. Pentecostalism).

D: If you want to evangelize, evangelize. Support it, teach it, etc.

We often encourage others to be missionaries, but maybe we need to missionaries of our own culture.

C: You need to send people out to our own culture. The greatest need is to get people doing it. Historically, the church grows through personal evangelism. How you do that is tough. You, the pastor, ought to be able to come to prayer meeting and say that I witnessed to so and so. Then you start praying for opportunities. You have to put tracts and pamphlets in their faces so that people are not just writing checks to missions.

There are a few churches in Canada who have an office of evangelism, but their actual practice was paying a pastor to evangelize.

K: One thing we must keep in mind as Baptists is regarding our children as sinners. Bringing children into the world bears a deep responsibility to bring them into salvation in Christ. Churches need to take heed to the warning that parents must take the responsibility to do everything possible to secure salvation for their children.

D: One of the things to do from the pulpit is to address the children (given that children are in the service). It’s a powerful way of indirectly addressing parents and non-believers. Speak to the children throughout the sermon. Make them feel special although they don’t understand everything about it. Let them know that the gospel is also for them.

C: I agree with you 100%. Sometimes I forget to do that. One thing another pastor does is sit down at lunch and ask the children what they learned from the sermon. (He shared a story at this point.)

Can you give us some examples of personal evangelism?

K: I go to a gym and conversations sometimes arise (with men of course!). You don’t want to tell people you’re a pastor right away.

C: A couple of things. I am involved in are a soccer league where half the people are non-Christians. I have a barber who is a Jehovah’s Witness, even though I pay more I still go there so that I can speak of Christ.

D: A lot of evangelism is done through the church, through preaching. A lot of what I do is motivating people to witness to others. A lot of what I do is through the church, making inroads into the community in different ways, not trying to make the church too busy.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Life in the Maritimes (4)

I thought Perry and the New Brunswick Lieutenant Governor bore a striking resemblance...

Perry and ME on the other hand look nothing alike!

Posted by Picasa

Life in the Maritimes (3) (fixed)

The Infamous "Reversing Falls" of St. John, New Brunswick. They are not so much "falls" as ""rapids," but quite interesting nonetheless. The tides rise and fall so steeply in the Bay of Fundy that they actually change the direction of this river. When tide is out, the river empties into the ocean. When the tide comes in, the river backs up like a bad toilet in the other direction. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing "toiletty" about the river... quite beautiful really. But cold!

A street in St. John... notice the giant ship in the harbour off in the distance.

I am not so sure I would be advertising this! One of Fredericton's sons is the American traitor Benedict Arnold. This is the home he ran to (all my American friends). We also saw a mural on the outside of a pub that fully glories in his residence. I take no responsibility for this. Just offering a public service announcement!

Life in the Maritimes (2)

A view of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church interior.

Pastor Edwards in the study!

Perry welcomes all foreigners to the Bay of Fundy!
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Life in the Maritimes

Ah, the Maritimes!

On Friday I flew to lovely Fredericton, New Brunswick to meet my good friend Perry Edwards of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church here in Geary/Oromocto/Haneytown. To be honest, I am not sure where I am - everyone seems to call this place something different!

It has been a lovely time, meeting the people of the church and getting the privilege of preaching on some 5 occasions. Friday night we talked evangelism and church planting. Last night we met with "The Holy Club" - a men's group - to flesh those things out more particularly. This morning I preached on Romans 3 and justification - What is a Christian. Tonight I intend to preach on the Blessings of Being Justified, from Romans 5.

This is a military town and a number of the men in the church work in nearby CFB Gagetown. My respect and appreciation for our military has sky-rocketed this weekend. I am proud to have men like this serving our country and I have learned a lot from them. One thing I learned is that they can stand the cold better than me!

Wikipedia suggests I discovered what Stage Two Hypothermia is like:

"Stage 2
Body temperature drops by 2°C - 4°C (3.6°F - 7.2°F, or between 95°F - 91.4°F). Shivering becomes more violent. Muscle miscoordination becomes apparent. Movements are slow and labored, accompanied by a stumbling pace and mild confusion, although the victim may appear alert. Surface blood vessels contract further as the body focuses its remaining resources on keeping the vital organs warm. Victim becomes pale."

They led me to a nearby car, drove me to a warm home and I waited for my breath to warm up under the covers - it is strange to exhale cold air!

Having military men adds another tension to church life here. One fine young fellow is shipping out to Afghanistan on Wednesday. His pregnant wife and two children will, of course, stay here. Six months of fighting Taleban is a long time. Pray for Neal. Others will be leaving shortly, some for overseas locations and others to different bases in Canada. Most are here less than three years.

I have also learned that God has His people everywhere. It is always humbling to me to be asked to preach anywhere, but one thing I thoroughly enjoy is hearing the stories of God's works of grace in the hearts and lives of people I have never met before. We can become so myopic. It is wonderful to step out of that and be reminded that the Sovereign is accomplishing His plan.

There will be much more to write later. I just had a few seconds to sit and check email and such and thought I would post.

Wishing I was with GFC today eating in the basement and hearing the Word of God! Yet, so thankful to be here and ministering it!