Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Challenging Thoughts on the Church as Community

Tod Bolsinger offers some provocative thoughts on the church in this book. The thesis of the book is that the Triune God is Himself characterized by community. Thus, the church, His people, must experience His life in community. Bolsinger insists that Christians cannot grow in a biblical sense apart from the fellowship of the church. He challenges what he calls utilitarian individualism (if works for me it is good) and expressive individualism (if it satisfies me it is good).

Bolsinger seeks to counter the rampant individualism to which the church has so often capitulated. He offers a view of the Christian life which is grounded in the communal fellowship of the Trinity and reflected in the communal fellowship of the people of God through Word and sacrament.

Here are a couple of snippets to whet your appetite and give you a feel for how the book challenges some of the individualistic tendencies of our culture which have been accepted into the church.

We have ignored the ancient wisdom of sanctification, spirituality, and building community and have focused instead on building crowds of the nominally converted. (p. 32)

Try to find an instance in the Bible in which someone just "accepts Jesus" and then goes merrily on his or her way. It just doesn't happen. Yet that is what so many of us do. We think that salvation consists of intellectual assent to the right statements and a desire to clean up one's act. Well-meaning Christians relegate the church to "support" and "assistance" for the individual journey of following Christ. (p. 72)

Indeed, what we could call an "unchurched Christian" today was considered in the first century to be a person "turned over to Satan." (p. 72)

Bolsinger writes as a Presbyterian, so we don't agree on every theological issue or ecclesiastical practice. However, he has nailed one of the prevailing problems of contemporary evangelicalism - the relegation of the church to secondary status. This is a book worth interacting with.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

An Interesting Take on Evangelicals and Politics in Wichita, Kansas

The PBS program NOW recently ran a piece about evangelicals and politics. Interestingly, the entire program focused on four evangelical churches in Wichita, Kansas. The central issue in the program was the past and present level of political focus in these churches. Three of them had become less focused on politics. One church continued with the same political agenda upon which it was founded.

The editorial thrust of the piece basically argued that Wichita is a microcosm of the changing attitudes of evangelicals toward politics nationwide. Where once the focus was on abortion and gay marriage, now the focus is on the environment and the poor. Three of the pastors interviewed made it clear that though they certainly desire to maintain a biblical stance on issues like abortion and homosexuality, they no longer want these issues to be the defining focus of their ministries. They have toned down the harsh rhetoric that so often characterized the evangelical message in the 80s and 90s. Instead of politically charged preaching, they have opted for more practical messages that "give people something that works" in everyday life.

In contrast, one of the churches featured continues to build its ministry on politically charged issues such as abortion and homosexuality. This church believes that political activism is a major focus of the ministry. Pastors who do not opt for this kind of political rhetoric in their pulpits are "sissies" and afraid to take the hard stands. The pastor of this church suggested that the reason he left his former church was that the membership was tired of the political focus and a pastor that was always preaching on political issues.

I have no way of knowing how much of the commentary from the pastors interviewed actually made it into the final cut of the program. I can only hope that much of what they said was not included. Why? Because there was little mention of the gospel in this program. The impression it left was that politics or pragmatism were the two options being followed by evangelicals today. Both of these approaches suffer from the same weakness. They are both built upon the principle of culture driven ministry. Whether the driving force is the political hot buttons of the day or the felt needs of the public, the starting point for such ministry approaches is not God and His Word but man and his issues, be they personal or political.

No church can afford to ignore its culture. After all, it is a culture the church is commanded to reach with the gospel. But there is a big difference between using culture as a starting point and using Scripture as a starting point. The mandate of the church is to bring the whole counsel of God to its culture in order to bring gospel transformation. We must begin with God and His Word. If culture becomes the driving force, some of the things God wants to say will be abandoned or distorted based on the prevailing tastes of the culture. When the church allows cultural concerns to eclipse biblical convictions, the result is an anemic and distorted message.

At the same time, when the church builds its ministry and message around the prevailing political issues of the day, it is in danger of promoting a moralistic message which minimizes the necessity of conversion. I am not in favor of gay marriage. But keeping gay people from getting married is not the ultimate purpose of the gospel. I hate abortion. But keeping babies from being killed is not the ultimate purpose of the gospel. Both of these things are implications of the gospel. The ultimate purpose of the gospel is to reconcile sinners to God through the cross of Jesus Christ.

If we confuse the implications of the gospel with its ultimate purpose, we end up emphasizing activism and minimizing conversion. We lose sight of the fact that changed behavior flows from a changed heart. The only way hearts can change is through the gospel. This is not to say that we should never talk about the implications of the gospel. The gospel has implications for every arena of life - including politics. But let's not lose sight of the fact that the first Christians turned their world upside without any voting privileges, powerful lobbyists, boycotts, candidates, or political clout. They upset their world with the gospel. People heard it, believed it, were changed by it, and then lived it.

Evangelicals need to get back to being known for the evangel. If our churches were gospel-saturated churches where the whole counsel of God was being consistently proclaimed instead of the preacher's pet peeves and the public's felt needs, I am convinced it would produce mature believers who would think, feel, and live biblically. Surely that would make an impact on our world.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ecumenical Agreement: Oasis or Mirage?

The pressure is on to join peace movements these days. Whether it is peace between Christians and Muslims or peace among divergent groups of Baptists, peace is in vogue. A few years ago it was peace between Catholics and Evangelicals that was in the headlines. Everyone is looking for common ground.

Who in their right mind wouldn't want peace? The Bible clearly tells us to pursue peace and to the best of our ability to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). Peace is not only a worthy goal, but a biblically mandated one. Peace is desirable. Peace is befitting for those who follow the Prince of Peace. Sometimes, conservative Christians can come across as being unpeaceable and argumentative. We are often known more for what we dislike than what we embrace. There is no question that some on the fringe of Christianity have tarnished its image by being mean and harsh. Fred Phelps - need I say more?

At the risk of being identified as one who doesn't value peace, I want to take issue with the surging peace movement among Christians. The peace that is being touted too often turns out to be based on the surrender of critical doctrines. When some evangelicals are willing to sign on to a document that blurs the clear distinctions between Yahweh and Allah, that is no real peace. When evangelicals sign on to a document that makes their differences with Roman Catholicism seem cosmetic, that is no real peace.

Dialogue is desirable. Respect for others when discussing our beliefs is a mark of Christian maturity. Loving those we disagree with is an essential part of following Christ. But surrendering essential biblical truth and calling it "peace" is not an oasis, it is a mirage. It promises refreshment but it turns out to be unsatisfying in the end. In our quest to respect others, we must take care that we do not disrespect the Lordship of Christ and the clarity of the gospel.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Another Sad Commentary on Evangelicalism

Time Magazine ran a piece on Mike Huckabee's presidential bid stating that Huckabee has learned to embrace and use pop culture to identify with potential voters. It was an interesting piece. However, the comment that really caught my attention came at the end of the article. Author James Poniewozik states,

But he (Huckabee) has already become the political embodiment of the megachurch approach: get people in the door with rock or cappuccino or stand-up - but get them in the door.

This comment didn't disturb me in connection with Huckabee. It disturbed me in connection with the church. Is this really the way outsiders view the approach of evangelicalism's most high-profile churches? Do whatever it takes to get people in the door?

The article closes with this comment: The big question is whether Huckabee can keep his lyrics from drowning out his music. Good advice for the church as well. Can we keep our methods for attracting people from drowning out the message of the gospel?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Church Discipline: The View from Wall Street

The Wall Street Journal ran a story recently on the issue of church discipline. The story was called Banned from Church: Reviving an ancient practice, churches are exposing sinners and shunning those who won't repent. The article reports that there is a growing movement among some conservative Protestant pastors to bring back church discipline. This, I believe, is true. However, the way the article characterizes church discipline is misleading at best.

The feature storyline within this article focuses on a 71-year-old female church member who was accused of spreading "a spirit of cancer and discord" when she questioned her pastors authority. When she showed up at church, the pastor called 911 and the church member was removed by law enforcement and jailed for trespassing. This happened a second time after the lady attended church again. Authorities were informed not to arrest the lady in future situations unless she was causing a disturbance. Apparently, her offense was questioning the pastor about following the church constitution in establishing a group of deacons to help lead the church.

The article confuses church discipline with pastoral abuse of authority. In some of the examples cited, including the featured storyline, it appears that senior pastors have taken it upon themselves to decide to remove members who have questioned their decisions or leadership. Church discipline is just that - church discipline. It is the church taking a disciplinary action toward members who are unrepentant and living in sin. It is not pastors taking it upon themselves to remove people who disagree with them. Genuine church discipline should not be confused with this kind of authoritarian leadership.

In addition, church discipline is a process that includes several steps. The article seems to indicate that church discipline only involves excommunication or "shunning" as the article puts it. This is really the last resort in the process of church discipline according to Jesus' words in Matthew 18. Normally, church discipline never reaches this step. It begins with private attempts to rectify an offense. When this doesn't solve the issue, others are brought into the discussion to seek repentance and reconciliation. When this step is resisted, the offense is told to the church. If this fails to bring repentance and reconciliation, the offender is to be treated as an unbeliever. In other words, they lose the privileges of membership. The church treats them like an unbeliever.

All of this is done with the goal of restoration in mind. Church discipline is corrective to be sure. But is always to be redemptive as well. The desired outcome is repentance and spiritual health for the offender and the purity of the witness of the church. In the WSJ article, it is cast in a much darker light. It is represented as a harsh, vindictive action toward those who don't "tow the line."

Biblically speaking, church discipline which reaches the final step of excommunication is not a common occurrence. It is somewhat rare. The Bible does not give us the picture of a sin police lurking behind every corner seeking to catch church members in the act of sinning. Paul speaks of excommunicating a man who refused to cease an incestuous relationship (1 Cor. 5). He speaks of excommunicating those who refused to repent of heretical teaching (1 Tim. 1:20). Even in these cases, you get the sense that it broke his heart to do so.

The WSJ article is not a balanced treatment of the issue of church discipline. However, the church must not allow such mischaracterizations to make us shy away from the practice of church discipline. A lack of church discipline is harmful to the church. It compromises the purity of the church. It tarnishes the name of Christ. It puts the church at risk from the threats of heretical teaching and unrepentant, sinful behavior. Discipline is one of the marks of a church which takes its biblical mission seriously.

Certainly if Major League Baseball takes its rules of conduct seriously enough to check the use of illegal, performance-enhancing substances, the church ought to take its biblical code of conduct seriously enough to pursue loving church discipline. Surely the glory of Jesus Christ, the integrity of the church, and the effectiveness of the church in pursuing its biblical mission is more important than the integrity of baseball.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Count Me Out

I just got a brochure on my desk from Ed Young Jr. inviting me to the C3 conference at Fellowship Church. The lead in says, "Are you in?" Inside the brochure, the conference is billed as intentional, international, and inspirational. One of the keynote speakers (just like last year) is Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Potter's House in Dallas, Texas.

Bishop Jakes is a well-known pastor. He has a large church (apparently a creative one as well). He is on TV and has written some books. However, Bishop Jakes denies the orthodox teaching of the church regarding the nature of God. Jakes denies the Trinity. He holds to a form of modalism (also known as Sabellianism). On the Potter's House web site, their statement of faith says "There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit." Notice the word "manifestations" instead of the word "persons." This is a red flag which tips you off that someone is fudging on their definitions in discussions of the doctrine of the Trinity.

In a radio interview, Bishop Jakes said, "The Trinity, the term 'Trinity,' is not a biblical term, to begin with.It's a theological description for something that is so beyond human comprehension that I'm not sure that we can totally hold God to a numerical system. The Lord said, "Behold, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one, and beside him there is no other." When God got ready to make a man that looked like him, he didn't make three. He made one man. However, that one man had three parts. He was body, soul, and spirit. We have one God, but he is Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Spirit in regeneration."

The last sentence is the classic language of modalism. It is commonly used among oneness pentecostals. It is the belief that the one God reveals himself in three different modes or manifestations. It amounts to the idea that God is one person revealed in three functions. God wears three different hats as creator, redeemer, and regenerator. This teaching was condemned as heresy by Bishop Callistus in A.D. 220 and Bishop Dionysius in A.D. 262.

Baptist confessions of faith uniformly confess an historic belief in the Trinitarian understanding of God. For instance:

1689 London Confession

In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.

New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833

We believe that there is one, and only one, living and true God, an infinite, intelligent Spirit, whose name is JEHOVAH, the Maker and Supreme Ruler of Heaven and earth (John 4:24; Psa. 147:5; 83:18; Heb. 3:4; Rom. 1:20; Jer. 10:10) inexpressibly glorious in holiness (Exod. 15:11; Isa. 6:3; 1 Pet. 1:15-16; Rev. 4:6-8), and worthy of all possible honor, confidence, and love (Mark 12:30; Rev. 4:11; Matt. 10:37; Jer. 2:12-13) ; that in the unity of the Godhead there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (Matt. 28:19; John 15:26; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 1 John 5:7) ; equal in every divine perfection (John 10:30; 5:17; 14:23; 17:5, 10; Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 2:10-11; Phil. 2:5-6) , and executing distinct and harmonious offices in the great work of redemption (Eph. 2:18; 2 Cor. 13:14; Rev. 1:4-5; comp. 2, 7).

Baptist Faith and Message 2000

There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.

Now, what I find incredible and inconceivable is that Ed Young Jr. would invite Bishop Jakes to be a keynote speaker at his conference. Such an action sends a very clear message: theology is trumped by innovation. Ed Young knows the controversy surrounding Bishop Jakes' views. But apparently doctrinal orthodoxy is not as important as creativity.

This is extremely troubling to me as an evangelical. We are not talking about a peripheral doctrine here. This is not an intramural debate on a third tier truth for crying out loud. We are talking about the historic Christian understanding of the nature of God. The moment you deny a trinitarian understanding of God, you have also redefined the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. You have redefined the essence of God. You have redefined how we are to understand the relationships between each of the divine Persons.

I am grieved by the elevation of pragmatism over purity in the church today. I am doubly grieved to see it flaunted among those who are part of my own denominational heritage. This attitude of ambivalence toward doctrine is having grave consequences in our churches. We need to have a passion for the essentials of the faith. Eusebius the church historian states that the Apostle John once saw the gnostic heretic Cerinthus enter a bath house in Ephesus. John said, "Let us flee, lest the bath fall in, as long as Cerinthus, that enemy of the truth, is within (Eusebius's Eccl. Hist., III. 28)."

C3 may be a dynamic conference. I don't doubt that some helpful things are probably taught and discussed there. But as long as people who espouse heresy are invited as examples of pastoral ministry, I am not interested. Such compromises are intolerable and inexcusable.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Grieving But Not Despairing

Today I had the privilege of officiating at my grandfather's funeral. R.D. (Dee) Dodd passed from this life last Saturday, January 12, at the age of 90 years. He was born in 1917. He was born again by the Spirit in 1962. Family and friends gathered at the funeral home in Norman, OK to remember his life and pay their respects. I preached from John 14:1-6. My son sang It is Well with My Soul and Give Me Jesus. Grandpa's pastor ministered to our family through reading God's Word and leading us in prayer both in the service and at the graveside. The First Nazarene Church in Norman, Grandpa's home church, served us with a wonderful meal.

I have done a lot of funerals over the years. It is always a striking thing to note the difference in demeanor between families whose loved ones knew Christ and those who did not. All glory to God, my grandfather knew Christ. As we gathered today, there were tears. There were expressions of sorrow. We grieved. But we did not grieve hopelessly. We know the parting is temporary. We know that my grandfather simply transitioned from an earthly life burdened by the corrupting power of sin to a heavenly life finally free of sin's destructive influences. We know that he is absent from his body but present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:6-9).

Paul told the Thessalonians that they were not to grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Of course, he doesn't tell us not to grieve. Even the Lord Jesus grieved over the loss of his friend Lazarus (John 10:35). Grieving is a normal part of losing someone in death. But we are told that believers should not grieve as those who have no hope. Paul then goes on to tell us why a hopeless grieving is inconsistent for a Christian. It is because those who have died in Jesus will one day be raised to meet the Lord and be with Him forever. Death is not the last word for the believer. The promise of resurrection means that believers who grieve the loss of a believing loved one do so in anticipation of the fulfillment of Jesus' promise (John 11:35).

We will miss my grandfather. But we will see him again. The next time we see him, it will be in better circumstances. It will be in glorious reunion in the presence of our Lord who will transform our mortal bodies into immortal, glorified bodies which are fit for an eternity with Him. When you consider these powerful promises, it is easy to see why Paul concludes his words in 1 Thessalonians 4 by saying, "Therefore, comfort one another with these words." Yes, we are grieving. But no, we are not despairing. Our hope is in the Lord.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Stretching the Limits of Evangelistic Strategy

The CT Blog offers this look at outreach to those in the sex industry. This article features ministries called "Hookers for Jesus" and "JCs Girls" both led by women who were formerly involved in the adult entertainment industry. In addition, there is XXX Church which seeks to minister to those who are snared by pornography. These ministries get booth space at adult entertainment (porn) conventions.

Such outreach activities are presumably based on the example of our Lord who reached out to prostitutes, drunks, and gluttons. Reaching those who are captive to such sin is indeed a biblical mandate. However, the methods one uses to reach people must also be sound and Christ-honoring. The names of the ministries above may be "tongue in cheek" attempts to get the attention of those they seek to reach. But is it really helpful to continue to cast oneself in terms that communicate the worldly life from which one was saved? Should former pedophiles band together and form a "pedophiles for Jesus" ministry? Should redeemed thieves create a "Shoplifters for the Savior" ministry? You get my point. The emphasis should be on the new life which flows from a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have to wonder if the emphasis falls more on "hooker" and "girl" than on Jesus.

In addition, is it really necessary to become an exhibitor (no pun intended) inside a booth at a porn convention to get the gospel to people? Why not set up outside and engage people in conversation? Maybe it is just me, but that environment could be very dangerous and potentially destructive even to a strong believer. I for one would find it difficult to concentrate on witnessing if I was surrounded by explicit sexual images. Lot's righteous soul was vexed by living in Sodom (2 Peter 2:8).

Certainly these women understand the ravages of the sex industry much more than I. I admire and applaud their desire to see others saved from its clutches. I appreciate their courage. I support the fact that they want to go to the places where people in these industries congregate in order to get the gospel to them. However, I question whether some of their methods are sending a mixed message that weakens the radical change which the gospel brings to those who genuinely experience its power.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This Is the "Cutting Edge" of Evangelicalism...No Thanks!

Phil Johnson has posted an eye-popping video about Solomon's Porch, the church of emergent spokesman Doug Pagitt. This video gives you a flavor of the kind of ministry that full-blown emergent theology produces. It is frightening.

The statements made in the video by Pagitt and the flock which has gathered around Solomon's Porch give the viewer a window into the emergent mindset.
  • Authority structures in the church always lead to something bad.
  • The Bible is always changing.
  • The church should not be committed to holding tightly to any statement of faith or theological position. Everyone has different ideas and all of them are valued.
  • A pastor standing to preach to a congregation is replaced by a sort of spiritual round table where all members of the community may speak with equal weight.
  • The key issues Jesus would be concerned about today are globalization, environmentalism, racism, and world hunger.
  • The way Christianity has been practiced for centuries is no longer a viable option.
  • The Bible has no regulative function regarding the way a church worships or practices the ordinances. Communion can be like a house party.
  • It is unloving and ungracious to try and convince someone of something they don't want to be convinced of. It is unkind to disturb someone who doesn't want to be disturbed.

Watch the video for yourself. I'm not making this up. If the people who speak on camera in the video are representative of the kind of "disciples" that Solomon's Porch is producing, then the danger of emergent theology is clear and present. We can only be thankful that the apostles did not take this approach to Christianity. The gospel may have been lost altogether.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Spurgeon on Revival

In the December 1866 edition of Sword and Trowel magazine, C.H. Spurgeon wrote an article called What Is Revival? I found this article to be convicting and encouraging. Each Sunday morning, some men in our church gather to pray for revival. This article spurs me on in that desire to see God's people restored to spiritual vitality and vigor for His glory. What follows is a segment from Spurgeon's article.

There is, a condition of mind which is even more sad than either of the two above mentioned; it is a thorough, gradual, but certain decline of all the spiritual powers. Look at that consumptive man whose lungs are decaying, and in whom the vital energy is ebbing; it is painful to see the faintness which suffuses him after exertion, and the general languor which overspreads his weakened frame. Far more sad to the spiritual eye is the spectacle presented by spiritual consumptives who in some quarters meet us on all hands. The eye of faith is dim and overcast, and seldom flashes with holy joy; the spiritual countenance is hollow and sunken with doubts and fears; the tongue of praise is partially paralyzed, and has little to say for Jesus; the spiritual frame is lethargic, and its movements are far from vigorous; the man is not anxious to be doing anything for Christ; a horrible numbness, a dreadful insensibility has come over him; he is in soul like a sluggard in the dog-days, who finds it hard labor to lie in bed and brush away the flies from his face. If these spiritual consumptives hate sin they do it so weakly that one might fear that they loved it still. If they love Jesus, it is so coldly that it is a point of question whether they love at all. If they sing Jehovah's praises it is very sadly, as if hallelujahs were dirges. If they mourn for sin it is only with half-broken hearts, and their grief is shallow and unpractical. If they hear the Word of God they are never stirred by it; enthusiasm is an unknown luxury. If they come across a precious truth they perceive nothing particular in it, any more than the cock in the fable, in the jewel which he found in the farmyard. They throw themselves back upon the enchanted couch of sloth, and while they are covered with rags they dream of riches and great increase of goods. It is a sad, sad thing when Christians fall into this state; then indeed they need reviving, and they must have it, for "the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint." Every lover of souls should intercede for declining professors that the visitations of God may restore them; that the Sun of righteousness may arise upon them with healing beneath his wings.

When revival comes to a people who are in the state thus briefly described, it simply brings them to the condition in which they ought always to have been; it quickens them, gives them new life, stirs the coals of the expiring fire, and puts heavenly breath into the languid lungs. The sickly soul which before was insensible, weak, and sorrowful, grows earnest, vigorous, and happy in the Lord. This is the immediate fruit of revival, and it becomes all of us who are believers to seek this blessing for backsliders, and for ourselves if we are declining in grace.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Excellence Overrated?

Here is an intriguing article from Daniel Schantz about excellence in the church. I must admit I found his insights to be refreshing and on target. As one who has thrown around the term excellence more than once, it was a helpful corrective to what has become a very prevalent bent in churches today.

HT: Out of Ur

Dallas Pastor to Nominate Dr. Al Mohler for SBC Presidency

Dr. Robert Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX has declared that he will nominate Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Dr. Al Molher for the presidency of the SBC in 2008. Read the news release here.

I really appreciate Dr. Mohler for several reasons. First, he loves Jesus Christ and the gospel. Second, he loves the local church. Third, because of his prodigious intellect, he speaks with clarity and authority on issues which affect the church in our world today. Fourth, he's a great preacher. Finally, he has an affinity for other men I really respect like John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, Ligon Duncan, John Piper, and Mark Dever.

There are also some good reasons why Dr. Mohler would make a great SBC president. As mentioned above, his academic abilities and keen understanding of culture provide a great platform for representing the SBC on issues of the day both theological and cultural. He is unrelenting on primary issues of Christian orthodoxy. However, he also has the ability to get along with people who may take a different approach on secondary issues. He has wide experience as a Southern Baptist. He understands our theological heritage and the unique distinctives of SBC culture. He is, in my opinion, a great Christian statesman.

I would certainly support an Al Mohler SBC presidency. May the Lord give Dr. Mohler and the SBC direction as this year unfolds.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Prayers for the New Year

On the final Sunday of 2007, I completed a series of messages on the letter to the Ephesians. This letter of Paul contains some powerful prayers which he offered on behalf of the church at Ephesus. As we stand on the threshold of a new year, I pray that these things will be the desires of our hearts for ourselves, our families, and our churches.

Ephesians 1:15-23

For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 3:14-21

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.