March 05, 2019
We have reached the last month of the first quarter of 2019 already!! I really do believe time is speeding up and sometimes I wonder if I am getting left behind. ;) In January you probably like I did some reflection on the previous year and set some new goals for this year. Last year I set some pretty big goals for myself both personally and in ministry. Some of those goals I met, a few I didn't even come close. Chances are you are in the same boat if you set some goals. Does the fact that we did not meet some of our goals lead to defeat and surrender? It shouldn't. The Lord is teaching me in this season that we need to celebrate the victories that we have won through Christ and humbly confess our failures and short comings to Him and depend upon His grace and strength to do better.
So 2019 I have set some pretty big goals for myself including the completion of a book on pastoral theology, reaching my goal weight, making more time for my wife, and reading 30 books this year. (Have you heard of Goodreads? I invite you to join me here. It is a great place to keep track of your reading but also to see what your friends and colleagues are reading.) Through prayer, hard work, and dependence upon the Lord I will meet these goals this year for His honor and glory.
Calvary Free Will Baptist Church has been going through a process of revitalization and has assembled a 20/20 Vision Taskforce to help our church be intentional about healthy ministry to our church. We have hired a church consultant, Bud Brown, with Turn Around Pastors Inc. In 2018 during the evening services of 5th Sundays our church has taken time to talk and discuss our church and our preferred future. God is doing great things in our midst and He is NOT finished. We believe that better days are ahead for the ministry of Calvary Free Will Baptist Church. To that end we have committed to a renewed sense of purpose. The mission of Calvary is to be a Bible-believing family of believers that seeks to share God's love, spread the Gospel, and equip believers to impact their world. The work of our taskforce has helped us to zero on a focus that will be expressed this year as: Reaching Up, Reaching In, and Reaching Out. You will be hearing more about this in the coming days. Right now though would you join me as a partner in prayer? Pray for the following immediate needs:
- A fresh stirring of God's Spirit to permeate all that we do as a church
- Committed laborers to help us in the harvest.
- Ask the Lord to raise up leaders and workers.
- Financial resources needed to help Calvary be all that it can be
Our leadership team and 20/20 Task force is asking our church to commit to working together see the following this year:
- 10% increase in our Sunday school, worship, and midweek attendance
- 10% increase in giving
- 80% of congregation regularly engaged in ministry inside and outside of the church.
So I have shared some of my goals and our church's goals. What are your goals for 2019?
February 20, 2019
During our Wednesday night Bible study and prayer time we are going through a series of lessons surveying the New Testament. I will post the notes here each week shortly after.
New Testament Survey, part 1
Background, Overview of the New Testament
“In the years that preceded the coming of Christ, God had been active in the lives of men and the affairs fo the nations.” (Walter Dunnett, New Testament Survey: Broadening Your Biblical Horizons, 2003: 5)
The Hebrews Preparation and Participation
Israel was “chosen to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exo. 19:6).
Nebuchadnezzar’s taking Judah captive - the Dispersion
Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek in the city of Alexandria Egypt between 250-150 B.C. This is called the Septuagint and is sometimes referred to as the LXX in reference to the 70 men who took part in the translation and editing of the work.
Also during the second century BC 2 sects of Jews seemed to have popped up: the Pharisee and Sadducees.
Pharisees the larger of the 2 groups. Predominately made up of students of the Old Testament. Very orthodox in their character. Taught the sacred nature of the entire Old Testament, the resurrection and judgment of the last day, affirmed the existence of angels and spirits. (The Sadducees denied all of these important doctrines.)
Saduccees were the powerful political leaders, including the High Priest and other community members.
2. The Greek Preparation and Participation
Alexander the Great realized an ambition for one language and one world as we swept across the known world and conquered it between 334-323 BC. To cement his victories he made the official language of all of the places he conquered Greek. This became the common language of the world during this time. This common language made it possible for the early church to reach people in Greek with the Gospel message.
3. The Roman Preparation and Participation
Rome is noted for having organized the world into a great empire extending from the western end of the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River in the Near East. They established a system of local government of provinces and districts that were closely supervised by local officials that reported to Caesar. Law and order was the name of their game.
Law and order - this emphasis backed up by great military power made possible the days of peace during the reign of Caesar Augustus. It was during his reign that the census was called for that brought Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem.
System of Roads contributed greatly to society as a whole and made travel much safer and easier.
Moral and religious decay - the Empire was notorious/synonymous with debauchery. The philosophies and religious teachings of the day left the people empty and wanting more.
The principal ruling family in Palestine in the years of the early Christian era was the Herodian dynasty. Herod the Great was king of the Jews, reigning from 37-4 BC. Herod Antipas, one HTG’s sons Herod Antipas (4 BC-39 AD) served as Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. This was the Herod that John the Baptist accused of wrongfully marrying Herodias (matthew 14:1-12). He was called “that fox” by Jesus (Luke 13:32) and it was he who was involved in the trial of Christ in Jerusalem (Luke 23:7-12).
Herod Agrippa I, the son of Aristobulus and grandson of Herod the Great, succeeded Antipas and ruled over Galilee, Smaria, and Judea from AD 37-44. Murdered James the son of Zebedee and imprisoned Peter (Acts 12:21-23)
The last of the Herod’s to rule during the New Testament period was Herod Agrippa II (AD 50-100). He appears in Acts 25 and 26 in conjunction with Paul’s trail before Festus in Casarea. He acquitted Paul of the charges against him, and yet Paul appealed to Caesar and was sent to Rome.
Composition of the New Testament
Contains 27 books within 3 categories: History (5 - Gospels and Acts); Epistles (21); and Apocalyptic (1). The New Testament is not arranged in chronological order, but arranged by these divisions and the books are placed in regard to their length rather than the date they were written. Many scholars hold that James was the earliest of the New Testament books, written about AD 45. Galatians likely was the next, and Paul’s first in about AD 47.
January 31, 2019
I am going to try to do better this year with blogging regularly. I have started and then stopped too many times to count. Partly because I get busy, partly because I wonder if I have anything to say. Regardless, 2019 will be a start of a renewed effort to write regularly. I would like to spend this first blog post talking about my wonderful trip to Ukraine this month but there is something much more pressing that I must address today. (I will be sharing Sunday evening at Calvary at 6 pm and we will be live streaming it here: www.facebook.com/calvaryfwbcolumbusga, and I will write here soon about it.)
This week though I must address an issue that I never would have dreamed would be necessary. I am not talking about the nonsense going on in Washington DC. Rather I am talking about the unfortunate events that transpired this week in New York and Virginia. Early this week New York celebrated the overturning of a ban on partial birth abortions in the name of women's health. It is now legal in the state of New York to terminate a pregnancy up to the point of delivery, and the abortion does not even have to be performed by a licensed physician I am told. A similar bill is under consideration in Virginia. What surprises is not that the decisions were made to pass in what in my opinion is a horrible bill rather it is the depravity of mankind seen in politicians and others cheering its occurrence. Have we really gone so far as a country that we celebrate death? You see the issue is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It is not even a man vs woman issue. It is an issue of life. Life is given by God, but the state of New York has, seemingly successfully, declared that politicians know better than "God" about what is good and right. History will show us other wise, just as it has countless times in the past. In the past abortion proponents have declared they desired the procedure to be a safe, rare occurrence. However, events now show this was not the case. And it will not stop with just infants.
It will not be long before the government will sanction the killing of others. When you start to travel down the road of devaluing life, there will be no stopping point. Before long when senior citizens become a burden on society that it too great to bear these same people will cry, "mercifully assist them in ending their pain and allow them to die." When government finds those who threatens it power and it can not silence them by other means, simply take their life. Life no long seems to have much value in the eyes of much of society. However, for the Christian and the Church we must stand up and say that God does declare that life has GREAT value. If for no other reason (though there are others) than God gave it. All life is a precious gift from God. As the Church we must stand against the progressive movement within our country that seeks to further devalue life. We must pray that the hearts of the politicians that are pushing these bills would realize the seriousness of their actions and they would repent. We must pray for our brothers and sisters in these states to have the courage to stand and speak against the message of death and suppression of life. We must through our example show that life is precious and a valuable gift from God. We are at a crossroads we will either declare "Life is precious" or "I do not care what you do just don't bother me." Which is your choice? I am choosing life!
May 25, 2017
I worked for a local grocery store throughout high school in Sioux Falls called Hy-Vee. It is an employee owned regional store that is concentrated in the upper Midwest. Hy-Vee was always a customer centered store. As employees we were expected to be friendly. If a customer needed help finding an item, we took them to the item. We smiled - in fact that was the slogan back then. Why do I mention this? It is not just to walk down memory lane.
My niece Kelsey graduated from high school last week and I was blessed to be able to return to attend the graduation. While back home I visited a Hy-Vee (in case you were wondering it was the one at 26th and Marion Rd in Sioux Falls.) I was shocked at what I found. The stores have grown to include much more than they did in the late 80s and early 90s. (Though they are still frying up some great fried chicken.) The stores seem brighter. They were a lot larger as well. But there was some other things that I noticed. Something more important seemed to have changed though. The focus on customers and customer service seemed to have at least taken a back seat, if not vanished.
I shopped at about 5 pm, it was quite busy in the store. There were SEVERAL employees working this Friday afternoon. What is so shocking is how those many employees worked. I passed no less than 15 employees through various departments. (I walked the entire store looking around.) Not one single employee smiled, asked me how I was doing, or if I needed any help. I even walked past one manager two times looking for protein shakes. He never looked up from stocking his display. I finally was tired of hunting the protein shakes and found an employee. I asked her where the protein shakes were. "In the health section." Clearly I did not know where that was or I would have found the crazy shakes 20 minutes before hand. I wandered for a bit more and finally happened upon the health section and protein shakes.
There are several lessons that I took away from my shopping trip that day. One of them that I want to talk about today on this blog relates to church. Walking into this new grocery store, not knowing where anything was, not knowing anyone that worked there was sort of an intimidating venture. I definitely was a bit apprehensive and frustrated at how hard it was to find some things. The employees, including the managers, had become so comfortable with their routines and list of jobs to complete that they ignored the very reason for them being there - their customers. You see not only did no one speak to me, no one spoke to anyone. Could this be how it is for people when they visit church for the first time? I dare say, "Yes." I am occassionally guilty of it. Folks in my church are occassionally guilty of it. We get wrapped up in the things we are doing, we forget why we do what we do. At Calvary we want people to feel welcomed when they come. We recognize that it is a stressful and intimidating thing to visit a church for the first time. That is why we have guest parking right at the front of our building. That is why we have greeters to welcome people. That is why members of the congregation speak to one another and especially those that are new. A smile, a welcome hand shake, and the other things that we try to remember help us to present the message "You are wanted and welcome here at Calvary. We love you. Jesus loves you. We are glad that you came." When churches (and grocery stores) lose their focus on guests, it won't be long until they are out of business - just ask the Shakers.
May 12, 2017
Time Magazine recently ran a cover story that asked the question "Is Truth Dead?" While many in our society want to question truth, we need to understand the reasons for raising the question in the first place. Christians understand that there is absolute truth and recognize that God's Word - the Bible - contains that truth. God's truth is certainly found in other places as well though. I believe it was Augustine that proclaimed "All truth is God's truth." Certainly God is the author truth, not of lies and falsehood. That is where the rub comes in. You see if society recognizes the reality of truth, they must also recognize the reality of God. However if truth is made to be relative or even non-existant then the problem of God is solved - He just simply does not exist. In our current cultural situation, where truth is left to the individual we are seeing some horrible and terrifying results of this ungodly cultural trend.
Something else has transpired as we have wrestled with the matter of truth though. We have lost a sense of civility and decorum. This can be seen throughout our nation from the Capital all the way through America's Main Streets. If someone does not agree with you they are the enemy. They are evil. They must be silenced or destroyed. This crazy philosophy has no place in the Kingdom of God or in any civilized society. Because we are made in the image of God, whether we choose to acknowledge that or not, we are of great value and worth. So are all other human beings. For that reason alone, God's people are called to love and be kind to others. We must remember that the "Golden Rule" is a biblical standard, not a postmodern pop-psychology phenomenon.
The Church must remember this truth as it interacts with those who are Christians and those who are not. Unfortunately salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit do not always mean that Christians behave in a Christ-honoring and loving way like they should. One of the frequent criticisms of the church is hypocrisy. Jesus put it another way. "How can you love God who you cannot see when you don't love your brother whom you can?" When we are not able to show love and grace to our fellow man, perhaps it is because we have not received it from God ourselves. We cannot share something that we do not have.
Church - Let's be busy speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) this week.
April 26, 2017
I have been invited to come to a Christian Bible college and seminary in Ukraine to teach a group of pastors for a week in January 2019. I am very excited about this. I will be teaching a course on pastoral leadership January 11-18, 2019. You can help support this mission trip by clicking the link below. Any size gift would be greatly appreciated. More than finances though, would you join me in prayer? Help me pray that finances will be raised, I will have clarity as I develop lessons and sermons.
God is so awesome to use His people who are willing vessels. When we are walking with Him and surrendered to Him He will bring various opportunities our way. Some may be in "far, far away lands." Most though will be right in our back yard. We must always be ready to say a word for the Lord and to lend a helping hand for the Lord to those in need. What opportunities is the Lord opening up for you?
You can also support electronically under Online Giving on our church website, or send a check made payable to:
Calvary Free Will Baptist Church
6165 Billings Rd.
Columbus, GA 31909
Be sure to put on the memo line of the church it is for "Pastor's Mission Trip". A receipt will be sent to you from the church.
March 03, 2017
A new Hollywood movie came out in theaters last weekend based on the book The Shack by William P Young. The book caused a great stir when it was released a few years ago. A storm of controversy is brewing about the movie as well. The basic background to the story is a man's young daughter was kidnapped and presumably killed while the family was on a campout at a park. It understandably causes problems within the family, especially between the mother and father. One day the dad gets a letter inviting him to Shack. He ends up going and there meets "God." And this is what the controversy is about. The book and the movie both portray the Father and the Spirit as women. Jesus is still a man.
There are a couple of points that I want to make to maybe contribute to the discussion surrounding the movie. Before I do though let me say that I have read the book but have not seen the movie and I am not sure that i will. As we talk about this movie we must remember at the very outset it is NOT a Christian film. I do not know the state of William Young's relationship with God. I do think that the film does not claim to be an evangelical, conservative story. It is certainly not. It is a Hollywood movie tale about the themes of love and forgiveness - something that certainly Christians should have something to say about. We should not expect non-Christians to believe like Christians. (You have had your head in the sand if you think they do.) There is another fact though that merits discussion. All people are made by God in His image. As the psalmist declares, "I [we] am fearfully and wonderfully made." Because God created and formed us, we all have some common characteristics that are true of all people. One of those common traits is an interest (either positively or negatively) in spiritual things. Very few people are truly neutral about spirituality. Some are absolutely against spiritual anything. Some wonder if there is a God why do we not see more of Him? We were created as spiritual beings so this movie/book touch something that all of us deal with. Everyone has to wrestle with questions of who God is and the relationship that we are to have (or not have) with Him.
I think that this film (as the book has done) opens some doors to have conversations about spiritual matters. As an evangelical Christian there are some things that I believe about God that are very contrary to this story. However, that does not mean that I am not willing or able to have a conversation with others that have some differing ideas from the story. That is good and healthy by the way. A good book or movie should get people talking. Perhaps if we talked more and argued and belittled less we would have more time for forgiveness and love - things that Jesus lived and preached about a great deal.