Each morning I receive an emailed “quote of the day.”  Some days are better than others, but yesterday’s gave me pause.  I have placed it below.  It is from “The Cost of Discipleship” by Bonhoeffer and deals with the detrimental effects of Lutherans idolizing doctrine.  I found it particularly troubling in light of the direction some Southern Baptist circles are seeking to take the Convention.  I wholeheartedly agree that we need to defend the doctrine of Scripture, but it must be done in such a manner that maintains the sweetness of Scripture–it’s message of grace and salvation.  The Risen Christ warned the Ephesian church the danger of following such a path and I pray that we do not go the direction that Bonhoeffer describes Lutherans have gone.

We Lutherans… have paid the doctrine of pure grace divine honours unparalleled in Christendom; in fact, we have exalted the doctrine to the position of God Himself. Everywhere Luther’s formula has been repeated, but its truth perverted into self-deception. So long as our Church holds the correct doctrine of justification, there is no doubt whatever that she is a justified Church! So they said, thinking that we must vindicate our Lutheran heritage by making this grace available on the cheapest and easiest terms. To be “Lutheran” must mean that we leave the following of Christ to the Nomians, the Calvinists, and the Anabaptists–and all this for the sake of grace! We justified the world, and condemned as heretics those who tried to follow Christ. The result was that a nation became Christian and Lutheran, but at the cost of true discipleship… We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to
follow Jesus was hardly ever heard.
… Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Peace be with you.


I will begin preaching through Habakkuk on Sunday if everything goes according to plan.  It will become the sixth minor prophet I have preached through in the last two years (Amos, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Haggai, and Habakkuk) in addition to having taught through Isaiah and Micah in our Sunday School class last Spring.  I had originally planned to preach a topical series on worship after Easter and the four sermons from Habakkuk will be on detriments to worship.  I find it pretty amazing how God works as He molds us into the direction He would have us go.  I have been preparing since early winter for this worship series, but then He drops Habakkuk into my mind.  I will be honest and say that Habakkuk is not a text I have studied that much and so I have been trying to play catch-up.  Yet, as I have studied through Habakkuk I have been humbled by how it fits perfectly into what I have already been thinking through and even more surprising, how it perfectly links to my Holy Week series and Easter Sunday sermon.  I am uncertain why God has led me to the prophets as much as He has lately.  After all, our Community Lenten Series focused around the “prophetic parables” in Hosea and Jeremiah.   However, as Habakkuk so eloquently asserts, God’s timing and purposes are not our own and we must simply rest in them.  I have found two great quotes during my Habakkuk preparation that I thought I would share.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have and that it will encourage you to take a look at the hinge of the minor prophets—Habakkuk.

“Faith and fact are not always compatible in the world of sense and sight, but that is not the whole world.  There is a world of justice that only God fully comprehends.  His people must accept by faith what they cannot confirm in fact.”
C. H. Bullock

“Such a word from God implies that they turmoil and violence and death in our societies may not be evidence of God’s absence from our lives but instead the witness to his actual working in judgment as he pursues his purpose.  No event in human history, therefore, is to be understood as completely divorced from his lordly action and will.  God is always at work, always involved, always pressing forward toward his kingdom.  But the means by which he chooses to pursue that goal may be as astounding as the destruction of a nation or as incomprehensible as the blood dripping from the figure of a man on a cross.”
Elizabeth Achtemeier

Peace be with you.

Last night I was listening to Dr. Al Mohler preach on I believe “Family Life” as I drove home and heard him give this great quote by Tertullian.  I thought in light of my earlier discussion of John Piper this week, it would be a fitting way to end the week.  I hope you enjoy it.

How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another; they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. Unembarrassed they visit the sick and assist the needy. They give alms without anxiety; they attend the Sacrifice without difficulty; they perform their daily exercises of piety without hindrance. They need not be furtive about making the Sign of the Cross, nor timorous in greeting the brethren, nor silent in asking a blessing of God. Psalms and hymns they sing to one another, striving to see which one of them will chant more beautifully the praises of their Lord. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present; and where He is, there evil is not.

Peace be with you

I have a lot of interaction with pastors, probably more than I need to sometimes.  The idea behind “networking” is not a new concept, it’s just finally found a title.  It is simple human nature to surround yourself with people who share similar circumstances as you for encouragement and strength.  It is in my interaction with pastors that I have recently seen a very troubling move within Baptist life in how we view the role of the congregation.  I am a firm and absolute devotee in the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer.  It is a fundamental tenant of our polity that we make decisions from the bottom up and not vice versa.  In other words, Baptist churches are strong because they reach decisions together through the long-established democratic principle of the “consent of the governed.”   The problem with a growing number of pastors today is that they are not operating under this principle.  I will readily recognize that the pastor is the God ordained head of the local congregation and that it is a local congregation’s obligation to treat their pastor with due respect and submit to their leadership.  I also acknowledge that far too many congregations fail in meeting that obligation.  I know quite a few pastors who are treated as little more than “hired help” and are in no way compensated as they should.  However, there are as many if not more pastors who shepherd their flock as domineering CEOs and not in the way that Peter instructs in his first epistle.   We are to gently lead God’s flock into greener pastures and trying to beat them about the head to get them there will not work.  We need to build consensus from the bottom up and by doing so we can trigger momentum and possibly even a stampede toward the place we are trying to reach.  The reason why people do not follow in the way that we believe they should is that they have not bought into the idea initially.  Our churches will never become healthy as long as we continue to focus our attention on winning over the hearts of pastors and not the people.  John Adams wrote while speaking of the American Revolution that “the Revolution was effected before the War commenced.  The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations.  This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.”  A fundamental shift in how our churches operate is required if we are to ever reach our changing world with the Gospel.  It will require a thought shift similar to the one that resulted in the American Revolution.  Our Founding Fathers leadership would have been insufficient to such a momentous task if the American people were not with them.  Our conventions must understand that the hearts and minds of our people must be captured in ways never before realized if we will achieve what they desire us to do.  The CEO mentality of our pastors must be destroyed and the priesthood once more empowered to achieve Kingdom work.  I have often thought that the chief problem with today’s congregations is apathy.  I am beginning to question whether it’s really that the Church has failed to motivate their hearts because they certainly seem motivated to do a host of other things.  I think it’s time to quit asking we pastors what we think and start asking our people what they need and want.  I do not mean we turn our churches into theological Burger Kings, but that we hear the cry of their hearts and we engage them.  Then, and possibly only then, will they start listening to us and have their hearts moved to embrace Kingdom work.

Peace be with you.

I will admit from the start that I write much better than I speak. My speech is sometimes shaped by colloquialisms and I occasionally fall prey to the grammar of my upbringing, which is not always the King’s English, when I am my most relaxed. Unfortunately, I am often relaxed during my sermons and so will slip up and say something incorrectly. I often cover these situations by saying that “it might not be good English, but it’s Richlands English.” I well recall the anger I felt one Sunday after going back to collect my Bible from the pulpit and finding with it a note correcting some grammatical error I had made in the Sunday sermon. I wondered if that was all the person, a former school teacher, took from my sermon that morning. I work very hard on my homiletics simply because I believe in the high calling to deliver the message that God has given me. I know that there is a great deal on the line when I preach and I must bring my best effort every time. I have often thought about what I would do should I ever be faced with a similar situation again. I found my answer in a quote from St. Augustine’s “Confessions” that I came across in my preparation for next Sunday’s sermon on holiness. I leave it for your consideration.

“O Lord my God, be patient, as you always are, with the men of this world as you watch them and see how strictly they obey the rules of grammar which have been handed down to them, and yet ignore the eternal rules of everlasting salvation which they have received from you.”

Peace be with you.

One of the chief problems in the modern debate between Christianity and the world is the fact that the debate is not held on even ground.  The  issue is that to debate Christianity you must start on it’s terms, which sadly the world cannot.   I believe the quote below best expresses this opinion and is the reason why a firm knowledge of the Scriptures and intensive discipleship is sorely needed in our churches today.  Our continued failure to do so results in us bringing a water pistol to a tank fight.

The intelligence which has learned to be a law to itself,
criticizing, rejecting, appropriating, assimilating, cannot
deny its nature and suspend its functions when it opens the New
Testament. It cannot make itself the slave of men, not even
though the men are Peter and Paul and John; no, not even though
it were the Son of Man Himself. It resents dictation, not
willfully nor wantonly, but because it must; and it resents it
all the more when it claims to be inspired. If, therefore, the
Atonement can only be received by those who are prepared from
the threshold to acknowledge the inspiration and the consequent
authority of Scripture, it can never be received by modern men
at all.
… James Denney

Peace be with you.

Our current series on the Church has been quite edifying to me as I have discovered some great quotes from various authors.  I thought I would share one from A. W. Tozer that hit home on how our spiritual health affects the spiritual health of the Body.

Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all
tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other?
They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but
to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So
one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away
to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could
possibly be were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn
their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.
Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified.
The body becomes stronger as its members become healthier. The
whole church of God gains when the members that compose it
begin to seek a better and a higher life.

Peace be with you.

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