Friday, August 31, 2007

Regions University and NSOP in full swing

The fall is a busy one!
I am teaching two courses at Nashville School of Preaching and Biblical Studies: Elementary Greek and Hermeneutics. They meet Tuesday nights after chapel at Crieve Hall Church of Christ in Nashville.
I'm also teaching four courses online: Christian Evidences, Survey of the Bible, The Passion of Christ and Establishment of the Church, and The Scheme of Redemption. It's never too late to get enrolled.

I hope and pray you are involved in a serious study of the Bible, whether on your own or with a group. The Bible continually amazes and enlightens.

Psalm 19:7-11 says:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;

the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;

9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;

the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;

sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Restoration Plea

In the early 1800s many church leaders grew weary with the strife and division among Christian denominations. They believed that the Lord wanted His people to be united, and all of the bad-mouthing and exclusiveness of the denominations shamed the name of the Lord. Their divisive ways caused people to fall away from Christ in disbelief (John 17:20-23).

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

They believed the acceptance of human opinions, creeds, councils, practices, and names caused this divisive and hateful condition. They left Europe to find religious peace in America but found the same ugliness again. They wanted something better—a pure and true Christianity free from the stains of human opinions. If they could get away from the human and concentrate on what they knew was truly divine, they could find a basis for unity. They could have unity only by following the truth of God’s Word. This meant they had to cast off everything human and denominational and return to a Christianity that knew nothing of denominationalism.

They rejected human opinions and inventions, since these things find their authority not in God’s word but in men. They believed that “nothing ought to be inculcated upon Christians as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion; but what is expressly taught, and enjoined upon them, in the word of God.” (Thomas Campbell, Declaration & Address, proposition 3). They said, “We speak where the Bible speaks, and we are silent where the Bible is silent.” They wanted unity in essentials, freedom in matters of opinion, and love in all things.

The true religion is built upon the rock; the rest are tossed upon the waves of time. (Francis Bacon)

“Loyalty to the restoration principle does not necessarily involve being loyal to the teachings of Stone, the Campbells, Walter Scott, John Smith or to any other man or group of men who have lived since their day. It involves only being loyal to the New Testament.” (Raymond Kelcy, “The Restoration Principle,” Abilene Christian College Lectures, 1954, 119.)

They believed the way to unity was through every person accepting the truth.

If the church was to please God, it would have to return to what God willed in the New Testament. Restoration is necessary, because repentance from error is necessary. One cannot remain in error and still please God.

James 5:19-20 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

“It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills. It is not love and it is not friendship if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie.” Adrian Rogers (Berean Call, Dec. 1996, 3).

By casting off manmade doctrines and practices, the church could restore the doctrine, worship and organization of the New Testament church.

The intent is not to start a new denomination, but to restore the church according to the ideals of the New Testament. Jesus built His church before any denomination existed. His church is not denominational, inter-denominational, or even non-denominational. The church Jesus built was undenominational. It could never approve of unifying the truth with error.

Churches of Christ strive to "do Bible things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names." They believe they must “discard from their faith and their practice every thing that is not found written in the New Testament of the Lord and Savior, and to believe and practice whatever is there enjoined.”

The Restoration movement grew out of a conviction that the Bible is the complete and final authority. Just as a seed will produce only after its own kind, so the seed of God’s word will produce the same Christianity today it did in the first century (Luke 8:11).

The Bible is complete in that it gives us all of God’s revealed will for life and godliness.

John 16:12-13 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

2 John 9-11 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

Some believe the primary goal of restoration is to unite all churches. They believe Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17 means that all churches should embrace one another on the basis of the most fundamental things. In their minds there are very few essentials. Some feel as long as a person believes in and loves Jesus, he is right with God.

Before Jesus, however, prayed for unity in John 17:20-23, he first prayed for his followers to be sanctified or “set apart” in the truth (John 17:17). Christians are to buy the truth and not sell it (Prov. 23:23).

Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).

Christ did not pray for a unity that sacrifices or compromises the truth. Indeed, it is our faith in the truth that unites us. Christian unity is not ecumenism, where groups unite but maintain conflicting and contradictory beliefs and practices. To be faithful and true, Christians cannot ignore or approve error. Uniting with those who worship in error sells out the truth for compromise.

God has always expected His people to come out of sin when they learn the truth. Repentance means that one leaves sin and embraces the Lord’s will.

· When the church at Pergamum held to the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans, Jesus sternly warned them to “repent therefore or else I am coming to you quickly” (Rev. 2:14-16).

· Jesus further warned Thyatira not to “tolerate” Jezebel and her teachings but to repent (Rev. 2:20-23).

The work of restoration, then, is actually soul-winning, since it leads a lost soul out of sinful error and back into life. If this is true for an individual, how much more true it is for a group of individuals or a church.

Jesus anticipated the disciplining of whole churches in Revelation 2 and 3. If a whole church remains in apostasy, the Lord will remove its candlestick. It can cease to be in His grace. This is why churches must remain faithful to God and His word.

Let us determine to follow Christ and His word by loving obedience.

With love,


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Gatlinburg was beautiful!

Last week Jackie and I visited beautiful Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and the Great Smoky Mountains. For twelve years we had longed to see the vacation spot that everyone else had seen (including our children at one time or another). At last, my love and I traveled four hours to see the sights.

We saw nine deer (four bucks and five does), several turkey, and the bear in the picture. This picture was taken just outside our cabin. We were about 40 feet away from him. He looked at us like, "What do you want?", turned around and sauntered off into the woods. We were so excited to see him, we didn't have time to get scared. Jackie and I got very close to some of the deer. Jackie got within 15 feet of this buck, who ignored her and kept eating.

We saw several waterfalls and went up to Clingman's Dome, a hard half-mile walk up the hill.

It was a great experience to be by ourselves for a whole week and not answer the phone, see a computer, or get up early. Jackie and I worshiped at the Gatlinburg Church of Christ, where Rod Rutherford preaches. He is a kind man and had a meaningful lesson. I was glad I got to sit and hear this good man. John and Teresa Rutledge sat beside us (John is a deacon at Concord Rd., and they are dear friends. It was their anniversary!).

We went on quiet walks, soaked our feet in the shallow and rocky streams, read the Bible, prayed, sang a few hymns, and soaked in with great thanksgiving the world God had made.

We are glad to be home, but the eight days will remain with us forever.


Let's not punish?

Lutherans to allow pastors in gay relationships

Sat Aug 11, 2:00 PM ET

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Homosexual Lutheran clergy who are in sexual relationships will be able to serve as pastors, the largest U.S. Lutheran body said on Saturday.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) passed a resolution at its annual assembly urging bishops to refrain from disciplining pastors who are in "faithful committed same-gender relationships."

The resolution passed by a vote of 538-431.

"The Church ... has just said 'Do not do punishments'," said Phil Soucy, spokesman for Lutherans Concerned, a gay-lesbian rights group within the church. "That is huge."

The ELCA, which has 4.8 million members, had previously allowed gays to serve as pastors so long as they abstained from sexual relations.

My comments:
When I read the above Reuters story, I thought what a perfect example of postmodern thinking. We don't want to punish the wicked, because we can't say what they are doing is wrong anymore.

We must wonder why it is all right to perform an act of fornication just because the fornicators are in a "faithful, committed same-gender relationship"? If a pastor were living with a different gender person in a faithful committed relationship (but without the benefit of marriage), would it still not be fornication (a damnable sin according to Galatians 5:19-21)?

We do not understand what changes the fornication from sinful to sanctioned. Whether one is promiscuous with many or with only one, it is still sinful fornication.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

A decision 40 years ago

Steve Bracken gave me an ASV New Testament on Saturday morning, August 2, 1967. I treasure that New Testament and keep it in my desk. That was the day I revealed that I wanted to be a gospel preacher. He inscribed on the presentation page, "To one I love so much." He always told me to keep smiling.

Those were good days. He preached the gospel with such tenderness and firmness. I wanted to do the same. Steve now lives in Seagoville, TX.

I decided to preach at age 15, the average age of most young men who decide they want to pursue life as a minister. While there have been many mountain-tops and valleys, I have never regretted being a gospel preacher. God has blessed me, and every day is an adventure of love.

I think that it is harder to preach in 2007 than ever before. Changes in our culture and in the commitment of the church itself makes the job harder. People are far more selfish and critical today. We live in a culture that feels privileged and eschews preaching against sin. This may be the reason we are losing some 600 preachers per year and only educating about 300 to take their place. We need gospel preachers, men of God, not comedians or socialites who will tolerate nearly any deviation from God's will. We really don't need any more high-sounding "theologians" who dismiss wickedness with a warped view of grace. We need some Elijahs and Jeremiahs. We need the courage of a John the Baptist. We need the wisdom of an apostle Paul. We need the encouragement of a Barnabas.

So many men had an influence in those early days: Ron Goodnight, J. D. Fredman and his son Dan, Howard Mitchell, Paul Garlitos, Richard Black, Cecil Roller, and Dewayne Thomas. My heroes have always been gospel preachers. These men encouraged me and opened doors to a young man who had a desire to preach.

I must mention the great influence of my parents, who always encouraged me to preach the gospel. I doubt I would be preaching, if it had not been for them. My uncle Hill also influenced me. I treasure the set of commentaries my aunt Alice gave me after his death. I still use them.

Some young man you know might have a desire to preach. Encourage and help him. Challenge him to love the Lord and to be faithful. Don't criticize him for doing what is right; support him. Help him to preach with love and firmness. We desperately need young men who will preach the unsearchable riches of God's grace and glory, men who will fearlessly speak the truth in love, men who will not compromise or play foolish games.

The church must recruit and train its preachers. We cannot leave that up to those who want to reinvent gospel preachers by making them into professionals who revel in religious uncertainty and play in "muddy waters."

Encourage that young man you know. May he give his life to a labor of love and a work of faith.



My friend and brother Steve Higginbotham sent this link to me with the question:

Want to explain this one?

There are some things that are not laughing matters. I don't want to profane what is holy.