Tuesday, November 27, 2007

HIS Wonderful Works......

Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
(Psa 107:8)

Just one more of His wonderful works to report and to praise Him for......
Remember the "sad story" of Brother G? (If not, scroll down to the two-part story from October)

Monday night was a hectic one at a prison service. The scheduled preacher was not there when we arrived so I went into the main unit to fill in there and preach, leaving my co-workers to go into the Annex and conduct the Bible Study. Five minutes before I would have stepped into the pulpit, the scheduled speaker showed up, so I left him to preach to that group and walked back down the road to the Annex, where I stood out in the chilly wind for too long until someone finally came to the gate and let me in.

The Bible study was under way and I tried to quietly take a seat with a nod of apology for the interruption to the man teaching. Just as I lowered myself into a chair, I looked right into the eyes of the inmate sitting next to the teacher: BROTHER G!!! Needless to say, that brought more interruption as I had to get around to him for a heartfelt hug. Seldom am I speechless, but this was one time for sure. Praise the LORD!

After the class, we had a few minutes to talk and he told me he had just arrived at that prison, having been transferred on the previous Wednesday from the place where he had "disappeared" . Not only that, he is thrilled to be in this new unit where he has already made friends with the leaders of the Christian community there, who are Godly brothers. He seemed much like his "old self" before whatever problems he had came upon him, praising the Lord and sitting on the edge of his seat listening and discussing the Word all through the class.

We are praying that this is God's hand moving him out of a situation where his walk was disrupted and putting him in a place where he can grow and serve the Lord. We are also praying that he will attend the preaching services we have there twice monthly and be exposed more and more to the Word. Please continue to pray for him.....

"BUILDING BRIDGES"--Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention

Our pastor spoke today in the Lifeway conference called "Building Bridges" intended to smooth over some of the conflicts between calvinists and non-calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention. Sunday I got the idea he was a bit apprehensive about it--for one, he thought he might be in "over his head" among all the big shots like Al Mohler, Tom Nettles, and assorted Doctors and Professors. Also, he had well-founded misgivings about just where we were building bridges to, and whether we really wanted to bridge some gaps.

I just listened to the message he delivered there and think he did a great job, to the Glory of God! He dealt with the dichotomy between the inerrancy of scripture and the sufficiency of scripture in modern church practice, and spoke plainly about the "straw-man" arguments that calvinism is anti-missions, anti-evangelism, etc.

Here's a link to that sermon:


Here's a link to other messages (from both sides) from the conference. I haven't listened to any others but did read the text file of the fellow who presented the "other side" versus Pastor Noblit, Dr Yarnell.


Speaking of Timmy Brister, he has on the same blog as those links, a great video by Paul Washer on "Cowardly Calvinists" I say "great" by inference since I can't view video on my slow internet connection, but have read all the commentary about it, including the snide attack by iMonk.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thanksgiving--NOT a sad story

I've spent some time and space here relating "Sad Stories".....It's time to remind myself and my readers that not all stories are sad, that the Ultimate Story is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that is Good News!

This past Sunday, the Lord gave us a day in which He emphasized what a blessing are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our older son and his wife have been looking for a new church home, one where the Word is the focus and where Christ is exalted. Our church qualifies, I think, but the 150 mile round trip for them is too much, especially in these days of $3.00+ gasoline. Providence led me to the Shepherd's Fellowship and thence to the members list where I found 3 men who belonged to a church in the same county where they live, albeit a 45 minute drive. After reading their doctrinal statement and looking at their website, we decided to organize a visit for this past Sunday morning.

At the same time I was discussing this with our son, I was carrying on a "discussion" via internet with another member of the Shepherd's Fellowship who lives in the same county and was greatly discouraged by his "purpose-driven" church. He decided that he should check out this church possibility as well and we planned a meeting with him for the same Sunday morning.

The whole group arrived at church in time for Sunday School, had a few minutes for introductions among ourselves and met a few folks from the congregation before going into the Fellowship Hall for the adult s.s. class. What a blessing! A well-prepared, expository lesson through the 96th Psalm. What a radical change from what we have experienced in the past and from what the young folks have been experiencing in the churches where they've been until now.

The pastor of the congregation has been on sabbatical and the pulpit was filled by one of the teaching elders who did an exposition of Genesis 2, centered on the Truth of God's Word and focused on the Glory of God.

We were so encouraged to find this congregation, isolated in the sea of "seeker-sensitive" entertainment-focused churches, standing on the Word, dedicated to the Glory of God, with leadership determined to keep them faithful to the One Who gave Himself for the Church. We were encouraged to find a brother like our internet acquaintance who is convinced that he needs to be in a Christ-honoring church and willing to pay the cost to find such a place for himself and his family. It's especially encouraging to see our son following the leadership of the Spirit of God, seeking a Biblical church for himself and his wife.

After church, we went into a local restaurant for lunch and were blessed once again by running into a man who had been an inmate in one of the prisons where we hold services every week. While he was there, he was a leader among the brothers, faithful to attend services, with a strong testimony to the life-changing work of Christ in his life. I had heard from his pastor that he and his wife were constant in their church attendance and were striving to serve the Lord in their lives.....and here he was, with his wife, having just come from church. What a great reunion we had! It was a joy to see them, to meet his wife, to introduce them to our son and daughter-in-law, to have a few moments of renewed fellowship.

High on our list of "Things To Be Thankful For" should be our brethren in the Lord. I am grateful to God for all my brethren I've mentioned here, what an encouragement they are when we see the Lord at work in transformed lives.

But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2Th 2:13-14)

And I want to join Paul in the following exhortation to those brethren and all my other brothers, that you stand fast; and in his prayer that God comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work:

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.
(2Th 2:15-17)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Dispensationalism's Loosening Grip.....

When God saved me in 1976, I immediately began attending church with the men who had been faithfully witnessing Christ to me for the preceding year or so. It was not only a "King James Only" church but one where many of the members carried and read the same edition of an Oxford Press Scofield Reference Bible.....the so-called "old Scofield" to distinguish it from the 1960-ish "New Scofield" which had updated some of the archaic language in the King James (a real no-no in the KJO world). This Bible was so popularly used that the preacher could say "Turn to page 1114" and we'd all be looking at John 1.

My point is that I was "raised" a Scofield-type dispensationalist. I left Scofield behind some time ago but have continued to consider myself a dispy, especially in the negative sense--that is to say: I am NOT a follower of "covenant theology" Though I long ago abandoned ideas like "God saved men in different ways in different dispensations" I have continued, rather thoughtlessly I'm afraid, to follow dispensationalism in general. As I examine my somewhat unquestioning allegiance to this position, it seems that much of the motivation is my continued rejection of the alternative (or what I view as the alternative): Covenant Theology.

I admit up front, because it will be obvious soon enough, that I am no authority on Covenant Theology. I am just beginning to study it carefully. The initial stumbling block to me is infant baptism. My understanding is that covenant theology teaches that infant baptism is the New Testament (or Church Age) equivalent to circumcision. Sorry folks, there is NO scripture to back that up--not in my Bible anyway. Baptism is for believers...period.

Further, I am under the impression, subject to correction, that covenant theology leads to Amillennialism. That view of eschatology requires one to spiritualize much of OT prophecy. Can't do it......the Word of God stipulates a 1000-year reign of Christ on this Earth and I'm lookin' for it! Tied in with that is a denial of the literal restoration of Israel, the idea that the Church is Israel and all the promises, spiritual and earthly, given to Israel may be claimed by the Church. All this requires suspension of belief in the literal truth of the Word and the substitution of man's spiritualized interpretation.

So, when I look at the leading proponents of Dispensationalism, like Scofield and Ryrie, and see their errors--like the "different means for different dispensations" of Scofield and the idea of the Cross being "Plan B" I don't want to be too strongly identified as a Dispy, any more than I want to be identified with a bunch of baby sprinklers. This Scofield idea of the Church Age being a "parenthesis" in the plan of God is becoming repugnant to me. I've not read Ryrie thoroughly but will take a chance and relate what Dr Alan Cairns states as Ryrie's position (knowing that Cairns is strongly anti-dispensational and might have exaggerated this): Ryrie has carried the "parenthesis" idea even further. In a sentence, parenthetical remarks have relationship to the words before and after the parentheses. Ryrie says that the Cross and the ensuing Church Age are not parenthetical, but that they are an intercalation --that means the parenthetical words have no relationship whatsoever to the other words in the sentence, either before or after the parentheses. Ryrie is saying that the Cross and the Church have no relationship to the Old Testament economy, nor to the future Kingdom....that it is a totally separate and stand-alone event or phenomenon. All I can do is hope I've misunderstood that......if that's true, what is the Book of Hebrews doing in the Bible?

more later..........I welcome your views and am open to correction--just provide the Scripture with your thoughts.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sad Stories--afterthoughts

What a tragedy is life without Christ! No matter how the lost console themselves with the "pleasures" of this world, its misery, hopelessness, and despair always rises to the surface and dominates lives.

And, what a joy is life in Him! No matter the circumstances of life in the world, the joy of Christ is supreme and over-riding. We are, indeed, more than conquerors through Him who loved us. In recent weeks, I've been studying and preaching on 2 Cor 4, particularly verses 6 & 7, but when one studies that, he has to go on to Paul's great proclamation of victory over the forces of this world, the opposition to the Gospel:

We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
(2Cor 4:8-11)

Just last week, we held our first meeting in a prison which had had a tightly shut door for a long time. God opens those doors when He is ready for them to be opened, regardless of the opposition. Seventeen men came to the first service and we were greatly blessed by their hunger for the Word and by their genuine thankfulness to Him for opening that door.

As is our practice, we passed around a yellow legal tablet on which the men could write out any prayer requests they wanted to share with us. I like to do that for a couple of reasons: it's nice to pray for them by name; and, it helps me learn the names of the men more quickly. From those 17 men that night, the sheets bore 16 prayer requests. I want to give you an idea what type things are on the hearts of these men.

Please pray for my mother's healing. I need to be home with my Mother in her last days

Please pray for my brother who is in prison in Mississippi....

Please pray for my girlfriend, that the Lord keep her from her addictions and break her heart.....

I want to thank God for allowing me to overcome being shot in the head. Pray for my walk with God.....

Pray that God strengthen me where I am weak in His Word......

Please remember me as I go out into the free world Friday, that my fiancee and my children and I can be a real family, get into a good church and live for the Lord.....

Please pray for me as I am dealing with anger against a fellow Christian.....

Please pray for my sons and their children to grow in the Word and the power of it......

These are my brothers; they are your brothers. They're incarcerated, that's the only difference between them and me. We're a bunch of sinners living in the free world; they're a bunch of sinners living in confinement. I hope God breaks your heart over these men as He has mine.

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
(1Jn 3:14)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sad Stories...part 2

That day he told me about the so-called "preacher of the gospel" who held him up to scorn because of his "improper baptism" I got some insight into Brother G's heart. When he told me his story, I was furious! That some perverter of Truth would deliberately ridicule a young believer like that is just unthinkable. As I counseled with him in that office, my own emotions overcame me and I choked up in my efforts to comfort and reassure him. I stopped talking and rested my arms on the desk, taking a moment to regain my composure. Brother G reached over and patted me on the arm, the patient comforting the doctor! That would have been quite a sight to an outsider....seeing this former gangsta affectionately responding to his brother in Christ.

But our contacts continued to decrease. I would ask about him every week and the inmate leader of our group would report that Brother G was around but not fellowshipping with them. At one point, I heard that he was being sought out by members of his former gang and that he was perhaps associating with them again. Another time, or more than once, I heard that he was fellowshipping with some of the Muslim inmates. Following that story, I heard that he had denounced the Bible as "only partly true" and one man reported that Brother G had told him: "God told me to not believe all the Bible, just certain parts"

Now prisons are great breeding grounds for rumors, just as in the military you never believe more than 10% of what you hear. After the rumors of his apostasy reached me, I searched him out again and tried to pin him down. In response to my direct questions about his faith, his behavior and his attitudes, he assured me he was "good" and continuing his own study of the Word, sticking to himself as had been his pattern for several months.

Then, a couple weeks ago, we learned that he had been moved to another part of the prison. The unit he was in, where we have weekly services, is a minimum security section where only the "best behaved" inmates live. They must maintain certain stardards of behavior or they will be moved to higher security areas where they will enjoy less freedom and fewer privileges. Brother G had been moved back to the main compound, a medium security unit. It took me another week to find out why that had happened. One of the officers with whom we have dealt for over two years and who has been very helpful in many ways told me that Brother G was a "check in" (Prison life has its own language......I didn't know that phrase when I first heard it) That means he had deliberately done something to get himself moved out of the unit. Men get in trouble with the gangs, get in debt, get into some conflict where they are (or think they are) in danger, so they do enough trouble-making to get enough write-ups so that they get moved. These cases are obvious to the officials: an inmate (like Bro G) who never is any problem suddenly starts trouble, seeking write-ups. It doesn't take much, not what we would think of as "serious trouble"....carrying food out of the chow hall, sassing an officer, violation of any of the myriad rules.......and pretty quickly, you're gone.

So, maybe there was some basis for the rumors of his dealing with his old gang; maybe he got in debt to them and couldn't pay; maybe this, maybe that. And then, the optimist in me thinks: Maybe he realized that he was in danger of straying from his faith, that he was being tempted by the Muslim influence or the gang influence, or some other influence that I have no idea about, and he acted in the only way he could find to remove himself from that which was causing him to sin. It is just not possible for me to view Brother G as apostate, despite the rumors. Part of this, I admit, is the difficulty I would have in admitting that I was so wrong in being so convinced of the genuineness of his conversion. My co-workers and I often cited him as an example of the "real thing". But the Biblical evidences of the New Birth are stated and he demonstrated so much evidence that lined up with Scripture that I am still convinced that he is a child of God. I'm hoping to see him soon. We are starting a monthly service in that main compound in November and I plan to write to him and invite him to come to the meeting. In the interim, I am praying that God will continue to deal with Brother G, convicting him of sin and guiding him in his study of the Word. I hope readers of this blog will pray for him as well.