Friday, September 19, 2008

Ezra's Confession

My daily reading schedule took me to the last two chapters of Ezra. Of course, chapter 9 is Ezra's famous prayer of confession which most of us have read multiple times. However, reading this chapter 9 today made a deeper impression on me than in past readings. Perhaps this is because there are so many similarities in my life to those days in Israel. They had sin in the camp primarily due to the marriage of the chosen people of God with those of foreign backgrounds in direct disobedience to the commandment of God. They disobeyed and mixed the world into the things of God.

I certainly see this in the life of our nation. The Judeo-Christian background of our country seems to be crumbling more and more each day. The United States needs to repent and return to the faith of our fathers.

This mixture is also obvious in our churches, even those which profess to be evangelical. Some members sit in the pews who never exhibit any of the grace, mercy, or love of God in their lives. They do nothing which bears any evidence of God's regenerating work. And what can we say of those "members" who rarely attend worship or participate in our church's fellowship? Yes, there is a "mixed marriage" in many of our churches.

And I see this most clearly in my own life. How easy it is to permit the world to enter in and contaminate us even as we are trying to serve our Lord.

Therefore, I took Ezra's confession much more to heart during my reading today than I have in the past. Here is his confession for your reading and consideration (Holman Christian Standard Bible).

6 And I said:

My God, I am ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face toward You, my God, because our iniquities are higher than [our] heads and our guilt is as high as the heavens. 7 Our guilt has been terrible from the days of our fathers until the present. Because of our iniquities we have been handed over, along with our kings and priests, to the surrounding kings, and to the sword, captivity, plundering, and open shame, as it is today. 8 But now, for a brief moment, grace has come from the LORD our God to preserve a remnant for us and give us a stake in His holy place. Even in our slavery, God has given us new life and light to our eyes. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not abandoned us in our slavery. He has extended grace to us in the presence of the Persian kings, giving us new life, so that we can rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem.

10 Now, our God, what can we say in light of this? For we have abandoned the commandments 11 You gave through Your servants the prophets, saying: "The land you are entering to possess is an impure land. The surrounding peoples have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness by their impurity and detestable practices. 12 So do not give your daughters to their sons in marriage or take their daughters for your sons. Never seek their peace or prosperity, so that you will be strong, eat the good things of the land, and leave [it] as an inheritance to your sons forever." 13 After all that has happened to us because of our evil deeds and terrible guilt—though You, our God, have punished [us] less than our sins [deserve] and have allowed us to survive — 14 should we break Your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who commit these detestable practices? Wouldn't You become [so] angry with us that You would destroy us, leaving no survivors? 15 LORD God of Israel, You are righteous, for we survive as a remnant today. Here we are before You with our guilt, though no one can stand in Your presence because of this.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Stennett Family: Never Deviated, Never Compromised

Some of my reading time yesterday included a chapter from a work on the British Particular Baptists. The specific chapter was writted by B. A. (Benjamin Ashworth) Ramsbottom, editor of The Gospel Standard. He briefly covered four generations of the Stennett Family which I found fascinating. Four generations of ministers and devoted servants of the Lord from one family (Edward, Joseph, Joseph the younger, Samuel)! Actually, in 1950 Oscar Burdick wrote a dissertation on the Stennett family and included a fifth generation Stennett (Joseph V)! How I long for my family's history to be such servants even beyond five generations.

Mr. Ramsbottom's final two paragraphs provide an excellent summary of the chapter.

So we give thanks to God for the Stennetts, especially because of their faithful witness to the truth. They never deviated, they never compromised. Some of them were called to suffer, some of them had the greatest allurements to draw them aside, but they never deviated from the truth.
Their witness stretches over a period of a hundred and fifty years: first, the Civil War; then Commonwealth times, the times of the Puritans; then days of persecution; then times of toleration; then the Age of Reason, in which there was awful spiritual decline in Great Britain; finally the Evangelical Revival, and afterwards. Their witness stretched over all those times--a period of a hundred and fifty years. Learned, refined, honorable, above everything else godly, they were faithful to the truth as in Jesus. They never deviated, they never compromised.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Baptist History Celebration 2007

Recently I obtained a copy of “Baptist History Celebration 2007: A Symposium on Our History, Theology, and Hymnody”, a volume containing addresses given at the Tercentenary Anniversary Tribute to the founding of the Philadelphia Baptist Association. The conference was held at First Baptist Church of Charleston and had many speakers on several subjects.

Flipping through the pages just to survey the book, I stumbled onto the article “Transatlantic Patterns in Baptist Theology 1609 to 1800” by William H. Brackney. I turned to the final paragraphs of the article to see Dr. Brackney’s conclusion and read the following:

After more reflection and discovery of local congregational and personal theological data, and with the inclusion of multiple types of Baptists in England and North America 1600-1750, we can reach several ongoing conclusions. First, on both sides of the Atlantic in their early development Baptists were a theologically engaging people. The charge that we have no theology or that our theology is a poor version of someone else’s, must be permanently silenced. … We can go even farther and assert that early Baptists lie in the stream called the Reformed tradition (read Calvin, with a spoonful of Luther and Hubmaier) in contrast with other possibilities like the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, or spiritualist alternatives. What distinguished all of our theological reflection from the rest was our preoccupation with ecclesiology. … Baptists have felt deeply that such matters were not extraneous to the theological task but inherent in it.

There is a lot to discuss in that one paragraph alone and, one day, maybe I will do so.

I look forward to reading through this collection of what appears to be great pieces on Baptist History!