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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

THIS BLOG HAS MOVED TO www.timeintheword.org

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Monday, May 29, 2006

Doubts about Your Church?

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - James 1:5-7
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Daily Scripture Reading - Exodus 3

Puritan Catechism
Question #29 - How does the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?

Answer - The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us (Eph. 2:8), and by it uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling (Eph. 3:17).

Confessing Our Faith
A daily reading from The First London Baptist Confession of Faith, 1646.

Chapter 49 - But in case we find not the magistrate or governing authority to favor us herein; yet we dare not suspend our practice, because we believe we ought to go in obedience to Christ, in professing the faith which was once delivered to the saints, which faith is declared in the holy Scriptures, and this our confession of faith a part of them, and that we are to witness to the truth of the Old and New Testaments unto the death, if necessity require, in the midst of all trials and afflictions, as His saints of old have done; not accounting our goods, lands, wives, children, fathers, mothers, brethren, sisters; yea and our own lives dear unto us, so we may finish our course with joy; remembering always, that we ought to obey God rather than men, who will when we have finished our course, and kept the faith, give us the crown of righteousness; to whom we must give an account of all our actions, and no man being able to discharge us of the same.

Acts 2:40, 41, 4:19, 5:28, 29, 20:23; 1 Thessalonians 3:3; Philippians 1:28, 29; Daniel 3:16, 17, 6:7, 10, 22, 23; 1 Timothy 6:13, 14; Romans 12:1, 8; 1 Corinthians 14:37; Revelation 2:20; 2 Timothy 4:6, 7, 8; Romans 14:10, 12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Psalm 49:7, 50:22.

Devotional Thoughts
Pastors often have to deal with doubts! Their own doubts about their ministry and the doubts that church members have about all the things Christians can and will have doubts about. One of those areas of doubt that seems to me to be growing more and more prevelent is an area where church members have doubts about their membership. This has happened in our church and I hear from people by email quite often who are struggling with whether or not to leave or stay in their church.

Let me say at the start of our discussion here that there are many valid reasons to leave a church. But that perhaps should be the topic of another post. Today, let’s talk about doubt and God’s call regarding church membership.

Let's think about the church in which we are each members. When we each became a covenanting member of our church we were sure that God was calling us to the church. As we obeyed that call and joined the church we were so happy that God had sent us to a church home and given us a family. We were looking forward to see what God was going to do with us and through us in the church.

But now maybe doubt has entered the scenario of our daily lives. Perhaps a nagging, lingering doubt about the direction of the church. If other people have recently decided to leave our church then what were the reasons that they gave for leaving our church? Some people seem to visit forever, never committing themselves Biblically by joining the church in the first place. Why would they not join, unless something is wrong with our church?

What are the reasons given by people for not coming back after a visit, not joining, or for deciding to leave our church? It is just an all too common excuse? It is a Biblical, doctrinal, or practical concern? Or is it some selfish, sinful thing that should not even matter when we decide where to join ourselves to the local body of Christ? What are people looking for if they base their decision about where God is calling them on some surface, selfish, or sentimental criteria? What are the Scriptural reasons for picking a church in the first place?

Before I get too off track we must remember that we are talking about doubts. Doubt is a serious result of a lack of faith, a lack of confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. As we wonder if we should stay at our church there is a thought that perhaps other churches should be visited to see what we might be missing. I have seen people do this - they wander about from church to church for months at a time looking for a church that feels right. All the while they neglect fellowship and accountability with the church that they are members of, all in search of something that fits better. It is almost like shopping for a new sweater. It is actually usually just blatant consumerism!

As we doubt we wonder, maybe it was not God’s call to bring us here and we were hasty to join. Why else would be be discontent? We wonder and question, and we are tossed back and forth from one idea and emotion to another, indeed, like a wave! We have become spiritually unstable. You see, we go back and doubt the very thing that we used to be sure of – that God called us here!

What is at the root of our doubt? We can often prove how we have become unstable in our faith and confidence and begun to doubt by looking closely at the circumstance or situation that lead us into doubt and uncertainty in the first place. Do we have Scriptural reasons to be somewhere else other than where God has called us? Maybe it is that now God is calling us somewhere else. Let me address these since they are important considerations.

First, we need to affirm within our own hearts and minds the truth about whether or not God called us to our church. If we can say yes, that God did call us here, then we must ask a second question. Is God calling us somewhere else?

God does do that! Often pastors and staff members are called by God to go to a new work. And certainly members are called to go to new areas of ministry and service. But in thinking about this I want us all to understand that whenever the Bible talks about God calling someone for a particular purpose, it is always a call TO something and never a call AWAY from anything. God never asks us to hunt and peck for His will, as if it is out there in the shadows and we have to find it by chance or blind luck.

When God called Abraham to go to the Promised Land, He did not call him AWAY from Ur. He called him TO a land of promise (Genesis 12:1). When God called Moses in the burning bush, He did not call Moses to leave Midian. He called him to GO to Egypt and free the people (Exodus 3:10). Then He called the nation of Israel TO the Promised Land. Yes it is true that they left Egypt, but the Biblical pattern is that they left because God called them TO GO somewhere else (Exodus 3:17).

Notice please, He did not call them to wander in the wilderness hoping they would suddenly one day stumble across His will. They only wandered in the wilderness because of their DOUBTS, their lack of faith, and their disobedience. Otherwise they would have been in the Promised Land 40 years before they finally got there!

I could give other examples (Jonah, Samuel, David, the Apostles, etc) but these make the point. As we pray about what God is calling us to do, remember that He always calls us TO something. He does not call us AWAY from a ministry, but TO a new opportunity. If He called us AWAY then we would leave but have nowhere to go. Then we would have to seek where He wanted us. And while some wrongly behave this way, God in the Word never calls AWAY, but always calls TO a new work. Think about the disciples. He called them to leave all and follow Him. He did not just ask them to leave all with nowhere specific to go, but He gave them a specific place to go – “Follow Me.”

So to sum this up, our first big question is this, “Where is God calling us to go?”

We may find that He is still calling us TO our church. We may find that He is calling us TO a new church. The point being that we want to go where He has called us. We hope He is still calling us all to our church, but we also want His will for each other and trust that we will listen and hear and obey His will.

Do we have doubts? What are they based on? Where did they come from? Think about what we would say if we were asked why we wanted to leave our church. What Scriptural reasons for leaving could we give?

Is it a Scriptural reason for finding a new church because a church has more kids or more people our own age? Is it a Scriptural reason to find a new church because there are more classes or programs? Is it a Scriptural reason to find a new church because it is bigger than we have been or might be in the future?

Turning these around, let’s ask it this way, if God is not specifically calling us to go somewhere else, then what Scriptural reasons could we give for leaving our current church? Think about it! Does God call us somewhere based on numbers, size, programs, number of kids, etc? Or does He call us where He wants us to be used by Him for our good and His glory?

As I preached at the first of the year in the messages from Haggai we learned that we must:

1. Consider our Ways!
2. Go (make disciples), Bring (ourselves to the altar of self sacrifice), and Build (the church)
3. Be Strong (confident), Do Not Fear, and Work Hard (at building each other up)

Can we do these things with a heart full of uncertainty and doubt? No. Have we been faithfully doing these things with all our strength in order to be obedient to the Word of God? If not, then our doubts should be with self, not the church! For if we are not living this then we are failing to BE the church that God has called us to be. And if that is the case, then we will doubt no matter where we go to church!!

So let us answer one more question. If we have doubts about the church what one thing is at the root of those doubts?

Now thinking about that one thing, is that a Scriptural reason to be discontent with where God has called us? Or is it something we need to repent of, cast off, and leave behind?

Where is God calling us?

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

What Should I Look for in a Church? and When Should a Person Leave a Church? by John MacArthur
A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership by Mark Dever

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Seige and Spoiling of Nineveh

Continuing in our series from Nahum, we now will examine Nahum 2:1-13 and see that approximately 38 years before Nineveh was destroyed, God told them exactly how they would fall! They thought they were safe and untouchable - but God states plainly, "I Am against you." And history proves that everything that God declared happened just as He said it would as the Medes and the Persians attacked and conquered Assyria and flooded, burned, and buried the capital city of Nineveh.

Listen to God's plan here (preached May 21, 2006).

God's Particular Wrath Against Nineveh

What did God plan to do to Nineveh because of their sin?

Listen here to this sermon preached from Nahum 1:9-15 on Sunday, May 14, 2006.

God's Power in Judgment and Deliverance

Over and over in the Word of God we see testimony to His awesome power. Today we are examining Nahum 1:4-8 to see His power over creation specifically as it pertains to judgment and to deliverance.

Here is the outline from which it was preached:

God’s Power in Judgment and Deliverance (vs. 4-8)

A. Water (vs. 4)

1. The Sea – Red Sea (Exodus 14-15)
2. The Rivers – Jordan (Joshua 1-2; 4:22-24)
3. The Rain – Drought (1 Kings 17:1-7; Isa 33:9; Amos 4:1)

B. Land (vs. 5)

1. Mountains Quake – Sinai, Elijah (Exodus 19:20ff; 1 Kings 19)
2. Hills Melt – Ps 46:6; 97:5; Micah 1:4
3. Earth Heaves – Korah (Numbers 16)

C. Who Can Stand? (vs. 6-8) – Malachi 3; Isa 1:25; 48:10; Jer 6:29-30;
Ezek 22:17-22

1. His Indignation
2. His Fierce Anger
3. His Goodness – Ps 46
4. Floods and Darkness – Egypt; Psalm 97

D. The Crucifixion – God’s Wrath for Our Sin – Matt 27:45-54

Listen or Download this message (preached May 7, 2006) here.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Phillip's Phunnies - Seriously Now

A merry heart does good, like medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Today the phunnies take a comical look at a serious subject.

In celebration of the announcement of the engagement of my good friend The Once Dead Poet (also known as Dustin) to Jamie:

In all seriousness - congratulations to Dustin and Jamie and praise to the Lord for bringing them together in His time as they both have waited on Him and each other!!!

(click here to see "the ring")


Sunday, May 14, 2006

FICTION: The Da Vinci Code

Yes, the Da Vinci Code is fiction. Absolute, unadulterated, blasphemous fiction! So why the interest in the book and the movie? Simply put, because fallen and depraved men love to fill their heads with foolish and vain doctrines that are demonically inspired, unsound, and damn the soul! It's true. Fallen men love lies and hate the truth. So why should we be surprised when the world is clamouring after a book and a movie that slander God Himself?

What is truly sad about this whole matter is the attention this book and movie are receiving from the "Christian" community. Those who claim to believe the Bible and love God and trust Jesus and live under the direction of the Holy Spirit - but who cannot, for whatever reason, deny the flesh and must induldge their lust, jumping on the band wagon to ride the latest fad in the evangelical world.

To be sure, there is a difference between reading the material in order to arm ourselves for a defense of the truth. But too often many who claim to be apologists are actually just looking for a good time while trying to argue with non-Christians.

So what are we to think of the Da Vinci Fiction? Here are a few resources that are helpful, edifying, and eye opening that hit this issue head on. Enjoy!

From Dr. James White:

Blog Posts -
Debunking Dan Brown's Fact Based Fiction

Audio Lectures -
Auburn Univesity Lectures on Da Vinci and the Resurrection

Sunday School Lessons -
Part 1, Part 2, and Part3

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Technical Difficulties

We are experiencing technical difficulties. It is either a virus or a problem with Microsoft XP - six of one, half dozen of the other. Please Stay Tuned. Devotionals should resume within the next few days.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Together for the Gospel Statement

The following statement was made at the Together for the Gospel conference last week. It was formally presented as a statement by J. Ligon Duncan III, Mark E. Dever, C.J. Mahaney, and R. Albert Mohler. It was also signed at the conference by John F. MacArthur, Jr., R.C. Sproul, Sr., and John Piper.

This is a significant statement in light of the tragedy we see all around us as the church in America has left her first love and lost the gospel. Even evangelical churches are falling prey to false gospels and false teachers who deny the very foundational truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here is statement:

The Together for the Gospel Statement
Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney, Albert Mohler

We are brothers in Christ united in one great cause - to stand together for the Gospel. We are convinced that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many churches and among many who claim the name of Christ. Compromise of the Gospel has led to the preaching of false gospels, the seduction of many minds and movements, and the weakening of the church's Gospel witness.

As in previous moments of theological and spiritual crisis in the church, we believe that the answer to this confusion and compromise lies in a comprehensive recovery and reaffirmation of the Gospel - and in Christians banding together in Gospel churches that display God's glory in this fallen world.

We are also brothers united in deep concern for the church and the Gospel. This concern is specifically addressed to certain trends within the church today. We are concerned about the tendency of so many churches to substitute technique for truth, therapy for theology, and management for ministry.

We are also concerned that God's glorious purpose for Christ's church is often eclipsed in concern by so many other issues, programs, technologies, and priorities. Furthermore, confusion over crucial questions concerning the authority of the Bible, the meaning of the Gospel, and the nature of truth itself have gravely weakened the church in terms of its witness, its work, and its identity.

We stand together for the Gospel - and for a full and gladdening recovery of the Gospel in the church. We are convinced that such a recovery will be evident in the form of faithful Gospel churches, each bearing faithful witness to the glory of God and the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Article I

We affirm that the sole authority for the Church is the Bible, verbally inspired, inerrant, infallible, and totally sufficient and trustworthy.

We deny that the Bible is a mere witness to the divine revelation, or that any portion of Scripture is marked by error, incompleteness, or the effects of human sinfulness.

Article II

We affirm that the authority and sufficiency of Scripture extends to the entire Bible, and therefore that the Bible is our final authority for all doctrine and practice.

We deny that any portion of the Bible is to be used in an effort to deny the truthfulness or trustworthiness of any other portion. We further deny any effort to identify a canon within the canon or, for example, to set the words of Jesus against the writings of Paul.

Article III

We affirm that the truth ever remains a central issue for the Church, and that the church must resist the allure of pragmatism and postmodern conceptions of truth as substitutes for obedience to the comprehensive truth claims of Scripture.

We deny that truth is merely a product of social construction or that the truth of the Gospel can be expressed or grounded in anything less than total confidence in the veracity of the Bible, the historicity of biblical events, and the ability of language to convey understandable truth in sentence form. We further deny that the church can establish in its ministry on a foundation of pragmatism, current marketing techniques, or contemporary cultural fashions.

Article IV

We affirm the centrality of expository preaching in the church and the urgent need for a recovery of biblical exposition and the public reading of Scripture in worship.

We deny that God-honoring worship can marginalize or neglect the ministry of the Word as manifested through the exposition and public reading. We further deny that a church devoid of true biblical preaching can survive as a Gospel church.

Article V

We affirm that the Bible reveals God to be infinite in all his perfections, and thus truly omniscient, omnipotent, timeless, and self-existent. We further affirm that God possesses perfect knowledge of all things, past, present, and future, including human thoughts, acts, and decisions.

We deny that the God of the Bible is in any way limited in terms of knowledge or power or any other perfection or attribute, or that God has in any way limited his own perfections.

Article VI

We affirm that the doctrine of the Trinity is a Christian essential, bearing witness to the ontological reality of the one true God in three divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of the same substance and perfections.

We deny the claim that the Trinity is not an essential doctrine, or that the Trinity can be understood in merely economic or functional categories.

Article VII

We affirm that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, in perfect, undiluted, and unconfused union throughout his incarnation and now eternally. We also affirm that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners, as a sacrifice for sin, and as a propitiation of the wrath of God toward sin. We affirm the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ as essential to the Gospel. We further affirm that Jesus Christ is Lord over His church, and that Christ will reign over the entire cosmos in fulfillment of the Father's gracious purpose.

We deny that the substitutionary character of Christ's atonement for sin can be compromised or denied without serious injury, or even repudiation, of the Gospel. We further deny that Jesus Christ is visible only in weakness, rather than in power, Lordship, or royal reign, or, conversely, that Christ is visible only in power, and never in weakness.

Article VIII

We affirm that salvation is all of grace, and that the Gospel is revealed to us in doctrines that most faithfully exalt God's sovereign purpose to save sinners and in His determination to save his redeemed people by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to His glory alone.

We deny any teaching, theological system, or means of presenting the Gospel that denies the centrality of God's grace as His gift of unmerited favor to sinners in Christ can be considered true doctrine.

Article IX

We affirm that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is God's means of bringing salvation to His people, that sinners are commanded to believe the Gospel, and that the church is commissioned to preach and teach the Gospel to all nations.

We deny that evangelism can be reduced to any program, technique, or marketing approach. We further deny that salvation can be separated from repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Article X

We affirm that salvation comes to those who truly believe and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

We deny that there is salvation in any other name, or that saving faith can take any form other than conscious belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and His saving acts.

Article XI

We affirm the continuity of God's saving purpose and the Christological unity of the covenants. we further affirm a basic distinction between law and grace, and that the true Gospel exalts Christ's atoning work as the consummate and perfect fulfillment of the law.

We deny that the Bible presents any other means of salvation than God's gracious acceptance of sinners in Christ.

Article XII

We affirm that sinners are justified only through faith in Christ, and that justification by faith alone is essential and central to the Gospel.

We deny that any teaching that minimizes, denies, or confuses justification by faith alone can be considered true to the Gospel. We further deny that any teaching that separates regeneration and faith is a true rendering of the Gospel.

Article XIII

We affirm that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers by God's decree alone, and that this righteousness, imputed to the believer through faith alone, is the only righteousness that saves.

We deny that such righteousness is earned or deserved in any manner, is infused within the believer to any degree, or is realized in the believer through anything other than faith alone.

Article XIV

We affirm that the shape of Christian discipleship is congregational, and that God's purpose is evident in faithful Gospel congregations, each displaying God's glory in the marks of authentic ecclesiology

We deny that any Christian can truly be a faithful disciple apart from the teaching, discipline, fellowship, and accountability of a congregation of fellow disciples, organized as a Gospel church. We further deny that the Lord's Supper can faithfully be administered apart from the right practice of church discipline.

Article XV

We affirm that evangelical congregations are to work together in humble and voluntary cooperation and that the spiritual fellowship of Gospel congregations bears witness to the unity of the Church and the glory of God.

We deny that loyalty to any denomination or fellowship of churches can take precedence over the claims of truth and faithfulness to the Gospel.

Article XVI

We affirm that the Scripture reveals a pattern of complementary order between men and women, and that this order is itself a testimony to the Gospel, even as it is the gift of our Creator and Redeemer. We also affirm that all Christians are called to service within the body of Christ, and that God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home, the church, and the society. We further affirm that the teaching office of the church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings and that men are to lead in their homes as husbands and fathers who fear and love God.

We deny that the distinction of roles between men and women revealed in the Bible is evidence of mere cultural conditioning or a manifestation of male oppression or prejudice against women. We also deny that this biblical distinction of roles excludes women from meaningful ministry in Christ's kingdom. We further deny that any church can confuse these issues without damaging its witness to the Gospel.

Article XVII

We affirm that God calls his people to display his glory in the reconciliation of the nations within the Church, and that God's pleasure in this reconciliation is evident in the gathering of believers from every tongue and tribe and people and nation. We acknowledge that the staggering magnitude of injustice against African-Americans in the name of the Gospel presents a special opportunity for displaying the repentance, forgiveness, and restoration promised in the Gospel. We further affirm that evangelical Christianity in America bears a unique responsibility to demonstrate this reconciliation with our African-American brothers and sisters.

We deny that any church can accept racial prejudice, discrimination, or division without betraying the Gospel.

Article XVIII

We affirm that our only sure and confident hope is in the sure and certain promises of God. Thus, our hope is an eschatological hope, grounded in our confidence that God will bring all things to consummation in a manner that will bring greatest glory to his own name, greatest preeminence to his Son, and greatest joy for his redeemed people.

We deny that we are to find ultimate fulfillment or happiness in this world, or that God's ultimate purpose is for us to find merely a more meaningful and fulfilling life in this fallen world. We further deny that any teaching that offers health and wealth as God's assured promises in this life can be considered a true gospel.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you - unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.... - I Corinthians 15:1-4

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, "Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water." - Revelation 14:6-7

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Challies.com T4G Recap page

(Thanks to Monergism.com for posting this statement).