Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Walking Worthy of the Lord

This past Sunday I preached on Colossians 1:10-12a, "A Worthy Walk". Paul writes:

"...that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing..." (Col. 1:10a)

Yesterday, I ran across some of Calvin's thoughts concerning such a walk in his "Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life". Notice this gem from pages 18 and 19:

"Because the Father has reconciled us to Himself in Christ, therefore He commands us to be conformed to Christ as to our pattern. ... Unless we ardently and prayerfully devote ourselves to Christ's righteousness we do not only faithlessly revolt from our Creator, but we also abjure Him as our Savior."

WHOA! That last sentence hits hard! While I may have been "loud" and "forceful" in my message, Calvin's words tower above anything I may have said.

Calvin begins with "unless we", preparing us for two, and only two, possibilities.

1. "we ardently and prayerfully devote ourselves to Christ's righteousness" - In other words we are to strive to be conformed to His image. Note the adjective "ardently" meaning "passionately". "Ardently...devote": we must "go all out" in our efforts to be like Christ, to be worthy of the Lord. That is one possibility.

2. On the other hand, if we do NOT put everything into being like Christ, Calvin says "we do not only faithlessly revolt from our Creator, but we also abjure Him as our Savior". "Abjure" means to "to give up strongly". To abjure the Lord brings to mind what Peter did when he denied Christ. Calvin says if I am not striving all out to be like Christ then I have revolted from my Creator and denied my Lord.

To Calvin, there is no third possibility. There is no "carnal Christian" category for those who claim to be Christians but who live like the lost in this world. Your life denounces your profession and, as a result, serves as a faithless revolt against God and a strong denial of Christ.

Oh that I could say so much in so few words as John Calvin! More importantly, though, may I forever strive to be conformed to the image of God's Son, to walk a worthy walk pleasing unto the Lord, so I may not be counted among those who rebel and deny our Lord.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Giveaway from blog

The blog has announced a giveaway in honor of its first annivesary. Check it out here!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Another Piper Sermon Jam Video

Here is a link to another John Piper "sermon jam video". This one is being used to launch Desiring God & Reach Records' "Don't Waste Your Life" tour. It's only 3 minutes and will grab your attention.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Cooperative Program

At the outset, I am fully prepared to be corrected for any misunderstandings I may have on how the Cooperative Program works within our Convention. I believe I understand how the money "flows" from a local church, to the state convention, and then to the national convention itself. But, if what I present below is incorrect, I encourage comments correcting my misunderstanding.

I am a Southern Baptist minister and fully support the Cooperative Program as one of the best approaches devised by man to financially support missionaries here and abroad. Based on their budget allocations, portions of the contributions made to Southern Baptist churches are sent to the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) and, from there, to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) where they are pooled with contributions from churches around the world to support missions.

While my statement is true, it does not tell the entire story. Every year the SBC publishes its Cooperative Program budget such as this one for 2009 displayed at the top of this article.

When you read this breakdown, you learn $72.79 of every $100 given to the SBC is allocated to missions, $50 to international missions and $22.79 to North American missions. In addition, $22.16 is being allocated for Theological Education, most of it at the Southern Baptist seminaries. So, almost $95 out of every $100 is set aside for missions and theological education of ministers and missionaries.

Unfortunately, this is not actually true. As I noted earlier, the money a church designates to the Cooperative Program is sent to the MBC for distribution. What many Missouri Baptists do not know is how the MBC handles this money. The MBC has budget allocations for all incoming funds. For 2009, here is how every $100 received is distributed:

$36.25 is sent to the Southern Baptist Convention.
$42.75 is budgeted to the Missouri Baptist Executive Board
$2.60 is set aside for SBC Annuity and Insurance
$1.60 is set aside as Reserved funds
$3.30 is given to the Missouri Baptist Children's Home
$13.50 is budgeted for Christian Higher Education

In other words, for every $100 a church gives to the "Cooperative Program", $63.75 remains in Missouri; only $36.25 is sent to the SBC.

Such a distribution changes the picture when it comes to "mission giving". What this means is for every $100 a church sends to the MBC, only $18 plus change goes to the international missions and only $8 plus change goes to North American missions. If you throw in the theological education ministries line item, a total of less than $35 goes to missions out of every $100. That is quite a contrast to the $95 we thought was being allocated!

Furthermore, the line item which has the largest budget allocation in the MBC and SBC combined is the Missouri Executive Board Budget. They receive $42.75 out of every $100. While I do not know all this Board does for us (and I am certain there are many good things it does), such an allocation sounds "bloated" in my mind, especially when we are giving the people in the pew the impression their donations are supporting mission work.

I believe Dr. Danny Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is correct in calling for a Great Commission Resurgence within the SBC. One of the articles documented as part of this resurgence is Article IX which I quote here in its entirety:

IX. A Commitment to a More Effective Convention Structure.

We call upon all Southern Baptists, through our valued partnerships of SBC agencies, state conventions/institutions, and Baptist associations to evaluate our Convention structures and priorities so that we can maximize our energy and resources for the health of our local churches and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This commitment recognizes the great strength of our partnership, which has been enabled by the Cooperative Program and enhanced by a belief that we can do more together than we can separately.

At the midpoint of the 20th century the Southern Baptist Convention was a convention characterized by impressive institutions, innovative programs, and strong loyalty from the churches. But the convention has too often failed to adapt its structure and programs to the changing culture. We are frequently aiming at a culture that went out of existence years ago, failing to understand how mid-20th century methods and strategies are not working in the 21st century.

Some of our convention structures at all levels need to be streamlined for more faithful stewardship of the funds entrusted to them. We must address with courage and action where there is overlap and duplication of ministries, and where poor stewardship is present. We are grateful for God’s gift of Cooperative Program dollars to both state and national entities. Both state and national entities must be wise stewards of these funds, and closely examine whether the allocation of Cooperative Program dollars genuinely contributes to Kingdom work or simply maintains the status quo. We are grateful for those churches and state conventions that are seeking to move more Cooperative Program dollars beyond their respective selves, and encourage this movement to continue and increase in the days ahead.

We must take steps toward simplifying our convention structures in an effort to streamline our structure, clarify our institutional identity, and maximize our resources for Great Commission priorities. We should ask hard questions about every aspect of our Convention structure and priorities and pray for God’s wisdom and blessing as we pursue wise answers to those questions. We must be willing to make needed changes for the good of our churches and the spread of the gospel. We believe that North American church planting, pioneer missions around the globe, and theological education are three priorities around which Southern Baptists will unite. Our Convention must be examined at every level to facilitate a more effective pursuit of these priorities.

The Great Commission, missions and theological education is the responsibility of the local church. As a convention of churches, we cooperate together to support theological education so that we can continually train competent shepherds who will lead churches through teaching, love and example, and who will see to it that the churches they lead are Great Commission churches that are promoting missions and advancing theological education. We are blessed as Southern Baptists to have such an avenue to serve the local church. Furthermore, we are grateful for the impact of the Conservative Resurgence that has given us seminaries committed to the inerrancy, infallibility, and the sufficiency of the Bible.

We believe the local church must be “ground zero” in a Great Commission Resurgence, and that our associations, state conventions and national agencies exist to serve and assist the churches in their divine assignment. We are convinced that as our people see our entities in this light, they will respond in even greater support of the Cooperative Program.

I agree with the call to reexamine how Missouri Baptists allocate the gifts of God's people and the structure of our MBC to see if we can, perhaps, reduce the amount of money remaining in the state and send more to the SBC for missions work. Surely such a need is critical in our present day as revealed by the International Missions Board's inability to send out some missionaries due to the lack of funds.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One of those Heartbreaking Sundays

This past Sunday I preached on the "gospel" based on Colossians 1:5b-8. I sense the Lord's presence very much during my message as I explained what the gospel is and how the Lord uses it in our lives. I don't recall how many times I told the people the need "to repent and believe" and in how many ways I said it. Over and over and over during the message I continued to call people to hear the gospel, repent of their sins, and trust Christ.

In the congregation were more than a few individuals who are listed on our church's prayer list as those needing salvation. Periodically I would find myself looking at them as I called for folks to heed the gospel. Some of them appeared to be sleeping. Others were looking around the auditorium. None of them appeared to be paying any attention to my plea.

Now this was not the first time I have experienced such a response to a message clearly aimed at those apart from Christ. Yes, I call sinners to repent and believe with each and every sermon I preach. But, every now and then, the text leads you directly to a message of salvation and this was clearly one of them. My heart is always broken when I see the word falling on bad ground and being stolen away by "birds" or choked off by "thorns". Oh, if only they could see and hear the message of God. Yet, they sit there, appearing completely unaware of the doom they are courting and the judgment that is awaiting them! Indeed it just breaks my heart.

But it does not surprise me. Clearly their response is to be expected from those who are spiritual dead and depraved as Paul teaches in Romans 3 and Ephesians 2. They will NOT respond on their own just as the Lord said in John 6:44. They are spiritually dead and without hope except for the grace of God.

May God's grace touch their lives and may His Spirit work a work of regeneration in their hearts before it is too late, no matter who might be preaching the Gospel to them.