Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bishops and Sola scriptura

The Boston globe had an interesting article this week, one that makes me shake my head. We won't even have on set confession (Don't get me started on that- we absolutely should), and yet, apparently, we now have bishops in baptist churches.

This is a movement that I cant wrap my mind around. It's a strange step back towards Catholicism, and one that requires a strange theological twist. One of the key things that the reformers like Luther and Calvin argued against was the authority of the pope (along with apostolic succession).

As I look at this issue, i think that there are several issues in play. The first is the reformation view of sola scriptura (Latin for "by scripture alone"). This is one of the five sola's on which the reformation was built (Sola Scriptura-Scripture Alone, Solus Christus - Christ Alone, Sola Gratia - Grace Alone, Sola Fide - Faith Alone, Soli Deo Gloria - The Glory of God Alone). The doctrine of Sola Scripture teaches that scripture alone is sufficient.

The issue is authority. The scripture, or someone that is “appointed”. What's really odd is that if anyone gets a magic mitre, it should be  someone like the executive director of the state, who essentially does the work a Bishop (but with a different title). This feels to me a bit like Napoleon crowning himself, rather than the cardinal laying his hand on someone to promote them. I’m just curious where this goes, and what’s the endgame. To me this is just something for which the world can mock Christians, which causes the kingdom to lose.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A rage against God

Here's an article that worth a read. It's basically a promo for Peter Hitchens new book, 'A rage against God', which I'm looking forward to reading.

Jeremiah 44

I was reading In Jeremiah 44 this morning. And I was struck by two things, our rebellious hearts, and the fact that our own sin brings God’ sovereign punishment on our lives so that we can learn.

The context of Jeremiah 44 is that the Jerusalem and temple have been destroy. God has just punished Israel for her idolatry. Most of the people have been taken into exile. Yet what happened. Those that stayed then fled to Egypt, in rebellion to what God told them to do through Jeremiah. Then, in Jeremiah, 44, the people declare that they will continue to worship idols, specifically the “queen of heaven”, Asherah. What struck me was the cold blooded rebellion. They have been punished severely; and yet they still keep sinning, willfully saying my will be done. So often, we are the same way. We are incredibly rebellious. Even believers continually rebel against God, rather than serving him out of gratitude to his mighty salvation.

As we look on, we see the other shoe drop. For that rebellion, God says in verses 25-28, “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You and your wives have shown by your actions what you promised when you said, 'We will certainly carry out the vows we made to burn incense and pour out drink offerings to the Queen of Heaven.' "Go ahead then, do what you promised! Keep your vows! But hear the word of the LORD, all Jews living in Egypt: 'I swear by my great name,' says the LORD, 'that no one from Judah living anywhere in Egypt will ever again invoke my name or swear, "As surely as the Sovereign LORD lives." For I am watching over them for harm, not for good; the Jews in Egypt will perish by sword and famine until they are all destroyed. Those who escape the sword and return to the land of Judah from Egypt will be very few. Then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand-- mine or theirs.”

What God says is, "for your rebellion, I will punish you." He is now going to be against those that have rebelled against Him, and bring harm on them for their rebellion.

What we see in this is that our sin brings God’s punishment. But it is not just punishment, it’s punishment to teach a lesson. Just as I punish my son to teach him, God punishes us so that we can learn. God says that this punishment comes for a reason, "then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand-- mine or theirs".
In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews tells us that the Lord chastises His children, like a parent are to chastise their children. He says through the writer of Hebrews, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11)

If we are walking in sin, we should not be surprised when God does not bless us, and even makes life difficult. Do not be surprised when the blessings of the Lord are not seen in your life. God says here, if you rebel, I am working against you, punishing you for your sins. But I am doing it, to teach you a lesson. When you encounter hardships, when it seems like God has turned against you, examine your heart, see if there is any wicked way in you. Don’t foolishly blame God for your hardship, instead, ponder if there is something God is teaching you, as he works for your overall good.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Our agenda and God’s direction

Here is the July/ August newsletter article.

Proverbs 16:9: In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

A month and a half before we got married, the hotel that we had reservations with canceled our reservation. Veronique and I had feared that it would happen, but they kept promising that they would not. Then, they changed their mind. The reason was understandable. They had been hit by hurricane Wilma, Katrina’s little sister, and despite their plans to be open before our honeymoon, they had recognized that it wasn’t going to happen.

Their rebuilding plans had gone amiss. On our end, we were in a jam. We were 6 weeks out from our wedding, with no honeymoon location. Thankfully, as we looked for an alternative God allowed us to find a great trip to St. Lucia, one that I believe would have been way better than a trip to battered Cancun.

Why am I telling you this? Because while we make plans, we need to remember that God is in control. While we try to decide how to go forward, and map out our future, scripture says, in the end, God is the one shaping our path. What should our response be when the plan doesn’t come together the way we hoped, or when God doesn’t act that way that we think he should? We should follow his leading, knowing that while we make plans “it is the LORD's purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

A wonderful example of changing plans and following God’s leading is found in Acts 16. Paul was on his second missionary journey. He had traveled through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, and when he and his team tried to enter the city of Bithynia, the Spirit of the Lord would not allow them to. They had planned to go and minister in this city; it was the next place on the agenda. They were intent on doing good work for God there, but for some reason, God said, no. So what happened? They kept going, they went to another city, and while there Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us" (Acts 16:5-10). They did; and the gospel entered Europe. Their plan was replaced by an even better plan.

While we make plans, we need to be open to God changing them, and understand that He is the one that determines our steps. In the next few months, we are hoping to do a couple of things here at First Baptist Church. We are hoping and planning to start a long range vision committee, and we are hoping that this committee will be able to draw out a map for long term growth. But as we do, we need to remember, we can plan, but God is the one that determines our steps. The other thing we hope to do is acquire the property next to the church. Right now, the going is slow. Maybe the church will get the property, but maybe not. Whatever the outcome, we need to remember it is the LORD's purpose that prevails”. God is the one that in control. While we make plans, while we try to find the right offer, and pray that God will give it to us, God determines our steps, He controls the outcome.

In your own lives, I would encourage you to remember the same thing. You plan, you organize. You seek God’s directions, and then you implement your plan. But as you execute that plan, be open to God changing it, remembering that He is the one that determines your steps, remembering that He is faithful, and that remembering that in the end, "He works all things together for the good of those that love him and are called according to his purposes".