Count it all joy when you face various trials. --James the brother of Jesus

Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Thoughts on Acts 29 and Missouri Baptists

Don Hinkle's Dec. 20 article on the decision to defund Acts 29 churches was essentially right in his conclusion. The Missouri Baptist Convention Executive board has a right to determine how MBC affiliated churches' Cooperative Program funds are being spent. I will concede this with the understanding that the Executive Board is the elected representatives chosen by the churches, because I believe it is the only way that churches can be confident that their dollars are going to support gospel causes. But at the same time the churches also need to hold the executive board accountable and let the executive board know when their funds are not being spent in ways that they approve of. Ultimately it is the churches collectively that have the authority to tell the Executive Board what to do, and without this principle the conservative resurgence could have never happened. I'm thankful for this principle.

But there is a section that I object to in his article. He states:
The Acts 29 group and their supporters, which include a growing number of bitter moderates once in the MBC, believe the Executive Board’s action – based on the alcohol issue – is extra-biblical.

I don't think it was quite fair to lump the supporters of Acts 29 with "bitter moderates." While I'm sure that the moderates have probably jumped onto this cause because they are looking for any reason whatsoever to complain about the SBC, look at who else has been supportive of Acts 29. The Founder's ministry seems to be sympathetic to the cause and even interviewed one of the defunded church planters. Mark Dever recently spoke at an Acts 29 boot camp and stated:
Our differences are enough to separate some of my friends—your brothers and sisters in Christ—from you. And perhaps to separate them from me, now that I’m publicly speaking to you.

No one who is awake and paying attention to trends in the SBC can honestly say that the Founders or Mark Dever are people that the Moderates would be supportive of. The Moderates are just jumping on the bandwagon because it is an opportunity to criticize something in the MBC that they can get sympathy from conservatives.

As I started this post, I agree that the MBC has the right to make that decision, but I also think that individuals and churches are free to express that they disagree with the decision without being lumped into guilt by association with the Moderates. This is not a liberal conservative issue. It saddens me to see that a state convention that I'm fully supportive of in the sense that they have regained conservative control, has chosen to cut fellowship with other conservative churches.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dr. Patterson is My Hero

After 10 years of theological higher education, I'm taking what may possibly be my last classroom experience. After this semester I will be at thesis stage for my Th.M. and I'm still uncertain whether I will go on to pursue a Ph.D.

I have the privilege of having this (possibly) last class with Dr. Paige Patterson. He has been a hero of mine for nearly 10 years--since about some time during 1998. I took my very first Baptist History class at Southwest Baptist University, and we had a very brief unit on the conservative resurgence. I was interested in the topic due to my experiences as a summer missionary in Virginia (which had already at that time split into two state conventions). I heard different stories about how to explain what was going on in Baptist life at that time. Some of the people I most respected were in support of the resurgence, and most of the attitude at SBU was that it was just politics and a battle for control. It seemed to me that there must be something more to it all than that. So I decided to do my paper for the class on the resurgence and try to get to the bottom of it all.

I can't say that that paper was even very good, but the one thing that I remember about the paper is that it is where I first ran into the name Paige Patterson. Some of the sources I read said some "not very nice" things about him, yet the sources that I used that were from his actual words lead me to believe that in reality he was on my side. The arguments he made resonated with me, and it seemed that those who opposed him just wanted to criticize his methods, but they avoided talking about his theological positions. I could see that I lined up with Patterson.

As I continued my undergraduate degree I continued to learn about what had taken place in the convention--more than I could have learned from one introductory paper as a college sophomore. I became familiar with Southern Seminary and what had taken place there with Dr. Mohler. So as graduation approached I planned to go to Southern--which of course is what I did.

I loved my time at Southern. I grew so much as a person and I came to understand theology so much more clearly. While there I came to affirm the doctrines of grace, and I learned to see the importance of confessions and of historic Baptist polity. I wish everyone could experience what I did at Southern Seminary--it was some of the greatest, happiest years of my life.

Now I'm at Southwestern, and able to study under this hero of mine. I can see that if it had not been for the influence of Dr. Patterson, all the things that I love and cherish about the education I received at Southern I probably would have never experienced. Dr. Patterson can be thanked for recovering the SBC seminaries for the cause of biblical fidelity. I may not agree with every word that comes out of his mouth, and that's okay because we're Baptists, but I still wholeheartedly affirm that Dr. Patterson is my hero. I am so grateful for what he has done for Southern Baptists, and I am indebted to him for so much of the faith that I cling to. There are many out on the blogosphere that don't share my high regard for him. There are many who cannot think of any thing to say about him without criticism. However, I just wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to him and the legacy he has given to Southern Baptists. If it were not for his influence, the SBC bloggers would probably be debating an entirely different set of issues--and probably the issues that plague the other denominations (eg. Episcopal, PCUSA, United Church of Christ).

So for the sake of anyone reading my blog (which I'm sure is a very small handful of people--if even that) I just want to say, I thank God for Dr. Paige Patterson. He is my theological hero .

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Be Reconciled

I led the devotional at work again yesterday morning before letting our guests come in to eat. I shared from the parable of the unjust steward:
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
(Mat 18:21-35)

As I read Olasky before beginning the job, I found that in the earlier days of American charities one of the first steps to helping someone would be to find out if they had either family members who could take them in, or a connection to a church that could bear the responsibility for them. Today that kind of investigation seems foreign. It's like meddling in someone else's life, and it will often be received as unwelcome. I have already found that some who I have spoken to have families, they just don't get along with them--too many restrictions, or relational conflicts. So that's why I chose to speak on the unjust servant. I pressed the point that if they refuse to be reconciled to family, and hold bitterness in their hearts, it says something about where they stand with Jesus. Not that forgiving can somehow earn Christ's favor, but that when we have been forgiven our hearts should be changed such that we will forgive others. Also, I understand that this is not perfect, for we still all fall in many ways, but it should be an area where believers are convicted to submit to if there is any level of resistance present.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cut to the Chase and Say What You Believe!!!!

I have (for lack of a better term) a pet peeve about being wishy washy. I'm of the opinion that we would all be a lot better off if people would just say what they think and lay all their cards on the table (so to speak). It gets on my nerves so much for people to hem and haw around issues and never say what they really think. Or worse--to be purposefully ambiguous (for some unknown pedagogical reason). I can respect someone who I disagree with who is at least clear about what he thinks, but I'm even troubled by people who I agree with who avoid talking about issues because they don't want to raise a stink.

I think that this is how we ought to treat the gospel. We ought not merely list the scholarly options and let students take their own choice. Ministers who teach the gospel need to be advocates for what they believe that the truth is. To merely list the options and leave it to students to figure it out is irresponsible, if a teacher has real convictions about what the truth is. To be wishy washy is the same thing as advocating that the issues are just not important at all.

Therefore, anyone reading this, I don't want to sound cantankerous, but please, for the love of God and truth, speak (or write) from your convictions and stop caring so much about what people think.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Update on My Position Concerning the Missouri Baptists--Acts 29 Controversy

I've thought more about this issue. I don't know if my position has changed any at all, but I've thought of just one more way to say it to clarify what I am saying. That is, I have no problem with the MBC requiring abstinence only positions from its church plants. I also have no problem with the MBC defunding specific churches who violate that commitment. What I do have a problem with is indiscriminately defunding any church plant based on their affiliation with the network. The line should not be drawn in such a way that cuts off people that the convention is actually in agreement with simply because they are members of a network with those who do not agree with the convention. I mean we are "Baptists" committed to the autonomy of local churches. Defunding the whole network seems like it cares little for this Baptist principle.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Homeless and Me, Part III

I've completed my first week. I have already learned a lot, and I've been faced with some challenges. Here are a few highlights of the week:

1) I did give the devotion on Thursday morning; however, I had been up all night, I had drank a pot of coffee, and I had an empty stomach. Needless to say, I was quite jittery and nervous. I've been that way when speaking before, but combine that with a little apprehension over the fact that I was speaking to people who so far I have very little understanding of their life situation, and I really felt like a rookie. I hope that someone could take something away from it. I think that next time I will speak from 1 Peter where it says:
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. (1Pe 1:22-23)
I will again speak about the love that believers have toward one another on the basis that they have been born again by imperishable seed. Thus, there is an even stronger tie that binds believers than that of blood, or other human distinctions.

2) Friday morning we were told that a woman had locked herself out of her room and she wasn't "dressed." There was only myself and the other monitor who could respond to this lockout for the next half hour and both of us are males, so we went together. Fortunately when we arrived she was in a housecoat. I'm thankful that our first report was an exaggeration.

3) Someone came to the door at about 11 p.m. on Thursday night wanting in for a place to stay. The intake for overnight stays can only be done by the caseworkers and we really had no way to let him come in. But my manager talked with him one on one and felt that it would be best if he walked him over to the men's facility. The man wasn't given a bed, but he was given a chair to sit in and a place that he was safe. Out on the street he was a victim of being "jumped on" (in his words). Just for the night we gave him a place to stay safe and warm (it was getting down to the high 30's).

4) When doing my rounds, every night there was one person sleeping in a sleeping bag right next to the fence on the mission property, on the sidewalk. It looked like the same sleeping bag every night.

5) I'm told by one of my coworkers that every resident that he knows personally has had some kind of relapse while he's been working there.

6) I'm reminded of how gracious God has been that I'm not living in a place like that.

7) I'm moved by the faces of the children--no older than my own--living there with their mothers. I don't know what situations the women who are living there come from, but I would guess that those with children have suffered from some kind of abandonment by men. This angers me. There are anonymous men who if they would just take responsibility for their children could rescue families from destitute circumstances.

These are just a few highlights of my first week. Some of the experiences, some of the feelings I've had, and some of the realities that I will see more of as I continue the work there.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Wideness of God's Mercy

Last night (or actually early this morning) my coworker who shares the same position as I do at the mission gave the devotion at the chapel before letting people in to eat breakfast. I am hoping that this means that in time I will be able to lead the devotion as well. My first preliminary thoughts on doing this are that I should do my first devotion on John 3:16.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

I think it would be appropriate to emphasize the limiting statement here--"whoever believes in him." Most people when looking at this passage seem to emphasize "whoever" without the rest of the clause. The effect of that error is to make this out to be a universalistic statement. Jesus didn't just save "whoever" without any qualification whatsoever. He saves "whoever believes in him." What this does is it shows that God does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex, socioeconomic status, or even any past decisions. He discriminates (separates the sheep from the goats) on the basis of belief. Something that is totally a gift from Him anyway.

These are just a few thoughts as I'm preparing. I hope that I'm able to share it at work before too long.

The Homeless and Me, Part II

Well, I just got home from my first shift working at Union Gospel Mission. It's 8:52 a.m. and I haven't slept since 6 a.m. yesterday so I may not be completely coherent. It was definitely a learning experience, though some of what I read to get ready generally gave me a good idea of what to expect. Some of the things that I didn't expect: 1) It seemed like more than half the people that I saw looked like regular people just like myself. They didn't look dirty, and they didn't act spaced out. They looked like normal everyday people that I would have worked with or known in other jobs that I've worked before. 2) Distinctions were made. They didn't just open the door for anyone to eat, and they did turn some away. I've learned from reading a book by Marvin Olasky that it is important to make these distinctions. Help will only be successful when those who you are helping want to help themselves. They have to prove that they will make an effort and not abuse the charity. Nothing was as radically extreme as what Olasky describes in the 18th and 19th centuries, but I was surprised just to see that there were some tests of worthiness being utilized at all. 3) I was not prepared for the directions that I received from every direction. I assumed that my trainer would explain all that I needed to do, but much was left to me just to pick up as I went along. I also got directions from some of the residents at the mission, as well as some stern suggestions from those who just came in off the street for the food. I learned this morning that one of the first things that will be essential for me to learn is who I can trust.

It was a very different kind of night than I've ever had before, and I'm looking forward to going back tonight to learn more. I'm pretty certain that people who saw me could tell I was pretty green--a rookie--gullible--and easy to take advantage of. They were probably right. This is the kind of thing that I need to help me to learn to be as Jesus commands us--wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

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