Today our family received an envelope with a nice letter full of Scripture and a monetary gift. It was sent anonymously, and we are unable to guess who sent it. We thank the Lord for His provision. And we thank you, whoever "you" are, who were thoughtful and generous enough to send it. May the Lord bless and keep you too!
My blog has moved, along with our church's website, from one host to a new one. The new RSS feed url is http://www.fbcaa.org/cms/feeds/MAPBlog/, accessible above in the title next to the orange RSS icon. Sorry for any inconvenience that this might impose on you. I hope you continue reading!
On January 4-5, 2013, the second Preserving the Truth Conference will be held at First Baptist Church in Troy, Michigan. Please visit truthconference.org for more information.
Mark and Heather Snoeberger have written a helpful two-part article on surviving seminary as a family (here and here). I greatly appreciated the principles that they promoted, such as unity in their marriage, maturity, spiritual growth and formation of their family, hard work, and frugality. Particularly noteworthy is their testimony of treating the seminary education as a shared task between husband and wife. My wife and I find that pastoral ministry requires the same kind of shared view of things. Trying to carry on in ministry while the husband pulls the load and the wife heads in another direction is a problematic situation. But that is not my point in this post...
In response to the article, a prospective seminary student asked me some questions related to time management and how to "balance" seminary with work, church attendance and ministry, and personal life. He is concerned about providing for the family so that his wife can fulfill her biblical role of keeping the home and working with the children. He is concerned about attending and serving in the local church in a way that he is faithful and not skipping meetings. Finally, he is concerned about maintaining his spiritual/devotional life as well as his physical health.
About work: Mark did not say if he had to work full time or part time during his seminary education. During the M.Div., I had the blessing of being self-employed and working afternoons (not the afternoon shift--just afternoons). Travel for my work was required on only a few occasions. This left my mornings available for classes and evenings and weekends for study. Students who are fully supported are greatly blessed because they can devote themselves entirely to their studies. I think that is a rare situation, at least in our circles. Many students struggle to work about 40 hours a week and then try to divide the remaining time for their wife, children, church, and personal health.
About church: I was able to be fully involved in the ministry of the local church as I went to school. When Fellowship Bible Church called me to be their senior pastor, I was taking the Th.M. During the first months of the pastorate, I took some time off from classes to focus on the initial ministry. As far as the seminarian's attendance at church goes, it is unacceptable for the student to be so consumed with work and seminary that he does not attend all the regular meetings of the church. If it comes down to it, it is absolutely appropriate to dial down the number of classes taken during a semester and take more years to complete the training. It is not very important to finish seminary in three years anyway; there is no need to be in a rush. A good case can be made that taking somewhat longer is better--it gives more time for the material to sink in. I took the M.Div. in four years; the Th.M. in six, with one year of overlap between the two.
About physical and spiritual health: Taking the M.Div. in four years (the majority of it in three with summer classes thrown in to help) was a challenge. It was at once spiritually filling and spiritually draining. Physically I was ill on a number of occasions due to exhaustion and dehydration. Trying to learn while you are dead tired is not the wisest approach. My questioner is rightly concerned about his spiritual health as well. It is easy enough to downplay 'devotional time' for a seminarian--after all, he is deeply in the Word in all his classes, right? What value does a skimpy devotional life have compared to that? To the contrary, the reality is that academic studies are of a different sort than personal spiritual maintenance. You might object that seminary shouldn't just be academic. Indeed! But when there are so many classes, so much material, tests that are looking for specific information, papers to write, etc., it is all too easy to pursue studies in an unattached, academic way that does not fully engage the soul along with the mind.
Seminary education is not to be treated lightly. It is a huge commitment. I fully believe that at the right seminary, it is an investment that is well worth the effort. However, a sense of proportion in the elements mentioned above will help you to succeed. You don't want your program of study to overwhelm the day-to-day concerns of church attendance and ministry, physical and spiritual health, and family. MAP
Here is another question for my Great Commission and Church Planting class: How do you view the two churches I describe below? Do you view them as very different?
You walk into the first church and begin to notice that all the people there are old. Say 70 years old or older. The pastor is likewise elderly. You begin to look for another young or middle-age family like yourself. You don't see any. What do you think of this church?
You walk into another church the next week and there are tons of children running around. There are many youthful looking families. The pastor looks young too. The place is bustling with activity. In contrast with the church you visited last week, you don't notice any elderly folks. What do you think of this church?
A common first impression of the elderly church is that it is dying, not reaching out to its community, and somehow it is "bad." The younger church seems vibrant and alive, and it is somehow "good."
But why would we think of the church this way? What if the elderly church happened to be in the middle of a retirement community? And why do we think that a church with no elderly people is better than a church with no young people? Don't both churches have a key missing demographic—in other words, both are lacking something they really ought to have?
Regarding your post at The Actual History of King James Onlyism pt. 1, I tried to post a comment around April 11, and again on the 13th, but perhaps they didn't make it to you. Below is the substance of it. In the interest of public criticism, as you suggested in your post today, I'm putting this out there to see if it might be of help to you. Here goes...
Your case has a logical flaw. Combs states that there were a few "odd" individuals who claimed perfection for the KJV. In your rebuttal, you quote three sources as if they are not "odd" individuals who support your view of perfection of the KJV. They might not be odd, but they are most certainly not making a case for KJV perfection. If you look at each quote, what they basically say is that each group decided to use the KJV and to circulate it as their standard. The fact that they did not see a need to correct it, nor wanted to use resources to correct it, nor saw a need to add notes or comments, is not proof that they thought it was a perfect translation. They seemed to think it was a very good translation and they focused their attention on things other than re-translating. They were interested in distribution, not translation. Similarly, a church today can decide on a standard translation without necessarily meaning that they believe in the perfection of that translation.
Do you think I am missing something?
The Bible reading plans for 2012 are now available. There are three of them:
I hope you will read along with us. If not on this schedule, use some other schedule. This is how to hide God's Word in your heart. --MAP
I saw it too. The snippet of the Piers Morgan interview of Joel Osteen and his wife that was posted on Al Mohler's blog.
Here is a cheat sheet that Osteen is welcome to borrow for the next interview. I've simplified the questions to get to the point.
Question: Is capital punishment OK?
Answer: God permits the governing authority to restrain evil by ending the life of certain criminals. I support capital punishment as long as it is coupled with strict rules of proof and evidence including multiple eyewitnesses, as specified in the Bible.
Question: How can you support capital punishment and be against abortion since both, in your view, end a human life?
Answer: The answer again goes back to the Ultimate Authority--God. God makes it clear that capital punishment is permissible and necessary as a consequence of some serious sins. The criminal is killed as a consequence of his sin; the unborn baby is killed for convenience or some other reason. So yes, capital punishment does kill someone, but it is not murder because it is the lawful taking of a human life, where the law we are talking about is God's moral law. Abortion is murder because it is the unlawful taking of a human life. God in the 10 commandments prohibits murder and thus prohibits abortion.
Question: Is same-sex marriage sin?
Answer: Yes. The Bible makes that very clear.
Question: Would you ever marry two gay people?
Answer: No. I couldn't participate in that sin. Besides, such a "ceremony" is not a marriage in the first place.
Question: Would you ever attend a gay marriage?
Answer: No. I could not support sin that way.
Question: What if Texas brings in a law legalizes same-sex marriage?
Answer: That doesn't change a thing in my view. The state would be wrong in that case. Same-sex marriage would be legal under Texas law, but it would still be immoral and a sin. Similarly, abortion is legal in the United States, but it is still a sin.
Question: Shouldn't Scripture be dragged kicking and screaming in the modern age?
Answer: No. Rather, we should submit ourselves to the authority of God rather than expecting Him and His word to bow to us.
The Spirit of God tells us through Solomon:
"And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end; and much study is wearisome to the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all." (Ecclesiastes 12:12-13 NKJV)
My wife Naomi and I were talking about this recently, and she wrote to me the following paragraph.
"I also recently came to the realization that of the making of blogs there is also no end! I guess they fit right in there with the books. While it is encouraging to read Christian blogs and books, we should always remember that, no matter what advice or opinion we may read, the end of any matter is to fear God and keep His commandments. There are so many people who are influenced by books they read--particularly books on parenting, husband/wife relationships, church matters, etc... There are lots of wonderful resources out there with good and godly advice and encouragement. But we must remember the only infallible guide is the Bible. Sometimes book-advice can have implications or results that can also produce fruit that is contrary to the Word of God. We must make sure that, rather than following any given book, that we are following THE Book—the Bible."
This goes along with what I've said for a long time: If you don't have time to read the Bible, you don't have time to read anything else.
The Bible is the sufficient rule of faith and practice for us in parenting, marriage, church, and all things.
“Even the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, Where she may lay her young—Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God” (NKJ).
Well, in our case, it is not sparrows, but a pair of robins that have found a home above the front door of our church's building. You can see the babies in the shot below:
Photo credit: Vincent Brattin.
I was alerted yesterday to the upcoming Evangelical Exegetical Commentary that has been revived after some uncertainty as to its fate.
It is slated to be a commentary set that will help pastors in sermon preparation and seminary students in their exegetical research. It will be of a scholarly caliber yet still be accessible, and it will uphold God's word as inspired.
This morning I published the personal testimony of a friend named Jeremy Wichert. It is an outstanding account of God's grace in the life of a young man. I would like to commend it for your reading. Check out this part:
“...I knew that I needed Christ. I knew that I did not have a real relationship with God. I knew that I was of my father – the devil...I then told the Lord that I knew that I had trusted in myself and the words that I said that day when I was five for my salvation. I confessed that I knew that it was only through Him that I could be right with God. I knew that I needed His righteousness to be placed to my account. I asked him to become my Savior. James 1:18 sums up my experience so well! It says, 'Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.' ”
In granting his permission for me to publish the testimony, Jeremy wrote, “I will pray that the Lord will use it for His glory.” I trust the same. SDG.
Read the whole testimony at The Personal Testimony of Jeremy Wichert.
I like to have a printed copy of each of the NT and OT schedules and use them as bookmarks in my Bible. As I read the assigned section for the day, I cross it off with a pencil or pen. This helps me keep track when I (inevitably) get behind and need extra encouragement to catch up.
Another way to follow the reading schedule is to use this website. In the right hand column toward the top of the page you will notice the Bible reading section. That is updated each day with the assigned sections for the day.
As you read, feel free to ask questions about the reading on our question page.
FBC's Bible reading schedule for the NT is now out. The basic idea of the schedule is to read through the New Testament twice in the year, by reading two chapters each weekday.
The reading schedule is available in PDF for the New Testament.
I adapted this schedule from bibleplan.org.
The Old Testament schedule should be out soon.
The thought struck me recently that love and purity go together. If you love your spouse, you keep yourself pure for her. If she loves you, she keeps herself pure for you. And if we love God, we ought to keep ourselves pure for Him (see 1 Timothy 1:5, 1 John 3:3).
Tonight, our pastoral intern Andy Bennett gave a very good message on Matthew 5:27-30 on the issue of adultery, lust, and how to deal radically with sin. In today's licentious society, this message is much needed. Give it a listen if you have about 43 minutes to invest in your soul. You can find it on our audio sermon page.
A helpful bit of advice from missionary George Black, who served with Gospel Mission of South America in northern Chile until past the age of 100:Do it when you're told to;
Many folks in our church have finished their reading through the New Testament this year for the fourth time this week. Next year, we embark on another journey through the Bible, this time twice through the NT and once through the OT. The reading schedules are available in PDF for the OT and NT. I adapted these reading schedules from bibleplan.org.
Feel free to join us in reading through the Scripture!
Are they figments of people's sinful and creative imagination? Or are is there something more sinister behind them?
There are several Biblical texts that indicate that false gods are often (if not always) fronts for demons. Leviticus 17:7 mentions idolatrous sacrifices to the goat-demons. Deuteronomy 32:17 speaks of the practice of "sacrificing to demons...to gods...new gods." The term "gods" is thus equated with "demons." Psalm 106:36-37 says the Israelites served idols and sacrificed their children to demons. This is probably a reference to sacrificing children to Molech through the fire (Leviticus 18:21, 20:2-5, 2 Kings 23:10, Jeremiah 32:35). Paul reflects the OT teaching when he refers, in 1 Corinthians 10:20-21, to pagan sacrifices idol/demons. 1 Timothy 4:1 has "doctrines of demons" which seems to make the demons a bit more active in their false systems than just a plain-old idol. Finally, Revelation 9:20 teaches that some people did not repent of their demon-worship.
Whether we can say in every case that a false god is a creation of a demon, or whether it is fully a product of a human's sinful imagination, or whether the demon took advantage of the human's departure from the living God to become a "god" to that person, is hard to say. Suffice it to say that it is ultimately dangerous to dabble with false gods because of the demonic influence over them.
At Fellowship Bible Church, we have been systematically reading through the New Testament. We are on our third time through, just now in the middle of Romans. It has been a great help to many of our people, and I wanted to take the opportunity here to encourage you to work through some systematic Bible reading plan.
Our approach is simple: read three chapters each day. This will get you through the 260 chapters of the New Testament in three months--and even give you a day or two off! We have a printed schedule for each month that allows us to check off each day as we complete the reading, but this is just a practical help. All you need to do is remember: 3 chapters, 3 months, repeat. This kind of reading allows you to go over the NT text repeatedly, four times in a year. Another practical benefit of reading several chapters in a row, day after day, is that you are able to better grasp the context than if you just read a chapter here or there.
We are also reading together portions of the Bible in our Sunday evening service. Our purpose is to be obedient to Paul's injunction to give attention to the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13). Various men volunteer to do the reading, usually two or three chapters in each evening service. In the last year or so, we've been able to read this way through Ruth, Nehemiah, the first thirty of the Psalms, Acts, and Romans.
If you want Christian growth, read, re-read, and re-re-read the Bible!
This post is a little out of the ordinary for this blog, but a little frustration with Mozilla's Thunderbird software induced me to write. Hopefully someone "out there" will see it and get this suggestion to where it should go. I searched around for an easy way to do this but did not find one after some searching.
I use the Thunderbird email client. A potential way to improve the software came to mind this morning as I was filing some emails. Right now, Thunderbird offers a quick way to file an email to the same folder that you used to file your last email. On the popup menu it says "Move to "Folder" againâ€¦ This is helpful, but it would be even more helpful if Thunderbird would observe and learn how I file emails and offer a quick-pick that is relevant based on that learned information. For instance, I file a lot of emails into folders I've named "Firstname.Lastname" based on the sender of the email. Some other emails I file based on topic. But the point is that if Thunderbird observed my behavior, it could easily capture a lot of my behavior for email filing and provide a quicker way to file many emails than scrolling through my long list of folders to find the one I want, then dragging the mail to it. The popup menu could change depending on who the sender is--and based on what it has learned from my past behavior it could say "Move to "Firstname.Lastname"â€¦
UPDATE: I've since discovered Nostalgy, an add-on for Thunderbird, and it does about what I need it to. It's learning function isn't quite like I envisioned above, but it saves me a TON of time. Thanks to Mr. Frisch!
Beyond the mere issue of a software improvement, might I suggest that we always keep ourselves open to suggested improvements? In our churches it would be good to provide an easy way for folks to suggest improvements for us personally, or for the policies and practices of the church. We should not make it hard to find where to suggest improvements, nor should we present an attitude that is resistant to improvements, as if our way is the best way.
One of our families brought some relatives with them to church on the weekend of February 2-3. On the Saturday, they were planning to visit the Bible display at the University of Michigan called "The Evolution of the English Bible: From Papyri to KJV" and they brought with them their own replica edition of the 1611 KJV. The next day, they brought their Bible to Fellowship Bible. I got the above picture holding the Bible. It weighs 35 pounds and is a very nicely done replica.
I joked with everyone that I was going to switch to using this for my preaching Bible. The only problem was, the 1611 style of the text was a little hard to read, and the Bible left no room on the pulpit for my sermon notes! One other downside is that it contains the Apocryphal books.
Please do not worry--I am not going the KJV-only route!