Archive for October, 2011

Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:5-6

October 31 always brings up questions for the Christians. What do we do with Halloween?

The Christian community is divided over how to approach Halloween, some saying it is a pagan holiday Christians should avoid while others argue that there is no better time for ministry. Should we receive it, redeem it, or out and out reject it?

With any subject like this we are called as Christians to think carefully, biblically, and pray for wisdom. As you do this I want to encourage you with insights and give some helpful links to consider. First, it is important for us to be informed about the holiday and it’s history; Mark Driscoll is helping us do that. Second, I hope you do know that as Christians one of the most important things this side of the cross happened on October 31, 1517 (the Reformation started); that you realize what resulted from it, and you educate your children about it (you still can).

While I agree with Russ Moore that Judgment Houses and the like can miss the point I believe we should use this opportunity to be the salt and light in our communities. Halloween is a great opportunity to welcome people into your home and begin new relationships to minister the Gospel. Though You may not agree with everything I believe that Jeff Vanderselt’s post is helpful for us to do this.

As Christians we must constantly be aware and understand that we are a “sent” people.  Jesus was clear about this in we He told us:

..” As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
(John 20:21b ESV)

David Mathis has done a great job helping us think what it means to “Sent into the Harvest” on Halloween.

I hope this help you cultivate your desire to glorify Christ this October 31.

Receive the Word

Posted: October 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

Do you Welcome the Word?

 

And we also thank God constantlyfor this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

                                                                                   1  Thessalonians 2:13

How will you respond—or react–to hearing the Word of God preached during any of our services of Oak Grove?  Specifically, I am thinking of how will we respond to God’s Word that we heard during our “For His Glory” services.

James 1:21b-25  gives us strong instruction on beign a “doer” of the Word and not just a “hearer”:

“….receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

There are several approaches we all take depending on the message and on our spiritual condition at the time we hear the Word preached.  Here are some examples:

Preach to ‘em brother!  This is when we assume the message is for someone else.  And sometimes—for example, when we a Christian hears an evangelistic message—this could be the case.  However, instead of observing the process with relief, we could listen to learn how we might be more effective in communicating those truths to others ourselves.  Or we may know of someone who needs this word from God.  We can humbly pray that God will bless their hearing of it.  Generally however, this is not the case.  There is something in most messages that we could all use.  We should listen for it.

Fear and Resentment.  This took place in the book of Acts when Stephen was martyred.  As he died, he exclaimed how that he saw Jesus.  “Then they screamed at the top of their voices, stopped their ears, and rushed together against him. (Acts 7:57).  Stephen had warned them earlier, “You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51).  This is a most extreme example.  However, there are milder, more typical forms of this.

Sometimes, when the Bible is preached, some stop attending the services rather than face the message and respond.  Sometimes we take issue with parts of the message while approving of other parts.  (This is not to say discernment is not needed, and that one thing a preacher says may be true while another statement is false, but we speak here of attitudes in the face of sermons faithful to the Word of God.)  Sometimes, we divert attention from the message by critiquing the style of the messenger.  All of these forms, however, keep us out from under the Word and slyly puts us over the Word.  And we do this, because we fear the Word and the adjustments it might bring into our lives if we submit to its authority.

We can receive the WordWe can welcome the Word into our hearts like a guest into our homes. The truth is our friend.  God will not hurt us with the truth; He will help us.  All of God’s plans for us are good plans (according to His plan). We can be like the people in the town of Berea.  When Paul and Silas brought the Gospel to that town, the Bible tells us, “The people here were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, since they welcomed the message with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”

My prayer is that Psalm 19:14 would be true for us:

” May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart  be acceptable to You, LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” 

Give us  ears so that we can hear God what you will say to us through the preached Word. I pray we won’t have hard hearts but that the Spirit will work in our hearts so that we will have the strength to obey. Amen

Nehemiah.jpg

Our God is in heaven and does whatever He pleases—Psalm 115:3  

After a busy week of gathering with God’s people at Oak Grove and hosting visiting pastors the Lord I believe has blessed our week mightily! I am still praying and processing much of what happened as the Lord has called folks to salvation and renewed commitments to follow Him as Lord! The Spirit is still moving and I encourage you keep praying.  We heard some powerful messages in John 17  from Pastor Ryan Fullerton if you missed a night of our “For His Glory” services you can hear the messages here:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/OgbcPodcasts

I want to encourage you to listen to nights you missed and also listen again to other messages that the Lord used this week. As we process and pray while returning to our normal life routines let us continue to plea to the Lord to revive us. While we do that let us consider these thoughts on the subject of revival.

“Revival is that sovereign work of God in which He visits His own people, restoring and releasing them into the fullness of His blessing.” – Robert Coleman

R. C. Sproul has been quoted as saying that true revival cannot be secured by human means.  “A reformation is nothing we can generate on our own.  We cannot manipulate it.  We do not have the power at our disposal or in ourselves to bring the life-transforming change that reformation yields.”

God is not our errand boy.  He sends revival at His pleasure, by His power, and for His own glory. People have prayed for revival for years before it came.  And when it came, it often came at surprising times and appeared in surprising ways.  God may use people we would not think of.  God may display His power in supernatural ways we have never before seen. Not only can God send revival when it pleases Him to do so, but God will send it in such a manner that pleases Him.

A sovereign, supernatural work of God is what we need.  Charles Spurgeon described that need this way:

We need a work of the Holy Spirit of a supernatural kind, putting power into the preaching of the Word, inspiring all believers with heavenly energy, and solemnly affecting the hearts of the careless, so that they turn to God and live. We would not be drunk with the wine of carnal excitement, but we would be filled with the Spirit. We would behold the fire descending from heaven in answer to the effectual fervent prayers of righteous men. Can we not entreat the Lord our God to make bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the people in this day of declension and vanity?

Do we admit we need such a sovereign, supernatural work of God?  Are we willing to admit our helplessness?  Our sinfulness?  Are we willing for God to interfere with our lives?

We cannot produce revival, but we can pray for it.  Only God can send revival, but we can prepare our hearts and begin the process of realigning our lives with His Word..  When it comes, we cannot control revival, but we can submit to God as He controls us, purifying our lives.

Will you not revive us again,   that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,  and grant us your salvation.

Psalm 85:6-7

We are holding special worship services at Oak Grove Baptist Church October 2-5, 2011 we are calling “For His Glory.”  Many have asked “is this revival we are having?” We have tried to answer before we can call something “revival” it has to happen.  So I hope the following post that is a combination of articles I have written before will be helpful.

There is a difference between “revival services” and revival.  The term “revival services” may be used to refer to an evangelistic emphasis with a guest preacher and musician.  It may refer to a special effort to seek renewal in the church — an “in-house revival.”  They can be scheduled and placed on the calendar.  They can be organized and promoted.  These types of services are good things.  However, while God may occasionally send true revival while a church is holding such “revival services,” God sends revival at his sovereign pleasure.  Most Christians have been in “revival services” when revival did not come.
Revival is when God awakens believers to their lukewarmness and sin, and powerfully calls them to repentance.  In revival God presses upon His people the seriousness of sin and the urgency of repentance.  Believers begin to think deeply about God and their relationship to Him.  God has revealed Himself—His holiness, His sovereignty, His power.  God’s people are driven to confess their sins and refocus their affections.  Their indifference is shaken and they begin to have emotions about spiritual matters proportionate to those eternal realities.  God reinvigorates His church in revival.  There is new life and power in the church.  Christians serve the Lord with great effectiveness and a fresh joy.

The word revival means to bring new life. One cannot give new life to that which has no life. One cannot “re-vive” what has not first been “vived.”  Revival begins among those who have been made alive in Christ through the new birth.
While revival always begins in the household of God, it will powerfully impact those who are lost. As God restores His church to its proper level of holiness and power, the Lord’s people gain a concern for their lost family members and neighbors.  Christians begin to pray earnest prayers for the conversion of the lost and God moves in powerful ways to bring people to Christ.In the 1857-58 Prayer Revival crews onboard ships are recorded as falling under mighty conviction of sin as their ship entered the harbor at New York City.

Revival impacts a community in positive ways.  In the Welsh Revival, they had to take the work horses out of the mines and retrain them because the workers had stopped using the profanity they had used in the past to command them. One police station formed a singing group and sang at churches because so much of their time was freed up.  Judges were given white gloves, the custom  when there were no cases to be heard.

True revival cannot be scheduled.  It cannot be worked up or promoted into existence.  Churches have “revival services” because they wish to make themselves available to this dynamic work of God.  We can pray that God will send revival, but it’s a brave prayer. If God is pleased to send revival, it will mean conviction of sin, the work of repentance, and moving outside our comfort zones.

The word for “revive” is often the same as “renew” found in the Bible and they are used interchangeably and have the same meaning. It comes from the original Hebrew word  ”chaya” meaning “to bring back to life.”

Our prayer to the Lord in these days of special service at the beginning of October we are calling “For His Glory” is that the Lord would do a super-natural work of renewing our hearts for Him & His glory. This article is to be used to help inform us so we can prepare & pray more effectively.

Revival is certainly a word in the Baptist vocabulary. In Baptist life, it is usually used to describe a series of worship services in which a visiting preacher, and sometimes a visiting choir director, come to a church to lead special worship services. These services have a special emphasis placed on leading people, who do not yet have a relationship with Him, to Christ. The church members often help out by doing such things as singing in the “revival choir,” bringing their friends to “pack a pew night,” or serving pizza to teenagers before the service on “youth night.” Sometimes the services are preceded by “cottage prayer meetings,” where the members go to a member’s home to pray together for the services. This is pretty much what the word meant as as we heard it growing up. Because of this tradition, there remains a “terminological inexactitude” (to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill) among many Baptists concerning the meaning of the term, revival.

Evangelism is not that to which the word revival refers. Revival is what God sends, not to the lost, but to His own people, the church. The dead can not be revived; they require resurrection. In revival, God does a fresh work in those who have life, yet who have grown weak through sin or neglect. It is true that evangelism will inevitably flow out of revival. Evangelism is important! But in terms of methodology, more and more, we are having to learn how to do that work outside the walls of the church. Unbelievers are not going to come and hear as often as they did in earlier generations. We are having to learn to share the faith in natural ways with those with whom we have relationships.
Here are some better definitions of revival; these will be found to be more consistent with biblical teaching:

“Revival is that sovereign work of God in which He visits His own people, restoring and releasing them into the fullness of His blessing.” – Robert Coleman

“Revival is a return to spiritual health after a period of decline into sin and broken fellowship with God… Revival is for God’s people when they need to be forgiven and restored to life, spiritual health, and vitality” –Henry Blackaby  (Fresh Encounter, Lifeway, 1993)

“Revival is an extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit producing extraordinary results.” – Richard Owen Roberts
Look in the Bible. Notice how many times it says, “me” or “us” when speaking of revival or renewal. Here are some examples:
Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Psalm 119:156: “Great are Thy mercies, O Lord; Revive me according to Thine ordinances”

Psalm 119:88: “Revive me according to Thy lovingkindness, So that I may keep the testimony of Thy mouth”

Psalm 85:6: “Wilt Thou not Thyself revive us again, That Thy people may rejoice in Thee?”

Isaiah 40:31 “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Habbakuk 3:2: “Lord, I have heard the report about Thee and I fear. O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years, In the midst of the years make it known; In wrath remember mercy”

Like the old song says, “It’s me, it’s me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” When is revival needed among God’s people? When they have their left first love. God’s people need to be revived when they find themselves going through the motions, having “a form of godliness but denying its power” (2nd Timothy 3:5). God’s people need revival when they are wallowing in sin, perhaps regretting their sins, but unwilling to thoroughly repent of them. Or even worse totally denying or not seeing their sin.

God’s people need revival when they are neglecting their relationship with Christ. Renewal is needed when we have forsaken evangelism and we are not broken for the lost. Revival is needed when we are low on zeal and have grown lukewarm.

J. I. Packer lists five Marks of Revival:

(1) Awareness of God’s Presence

(2) Responsiveness to God’s Word

(3) Sensitiveness to sin

(4) Liveliness in Community – A revived church is full of life, joy, and power of the Holy Spirit

(5) Faithfulness in testimony – an evangelistic and ethical overspill into the world.

Is there a “formula for revival”? Sometimes, you hear 2nd Chronicles 7:14 used as a recipe for revival: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” But that’s the whole deal, isn’t it? Getting God’s people to humble themselves, to pray, to seek God’s face, and repent? It would seem that if all that is happening, you have revival! The condition being met in this passage leads to forgiveness and restoration; at least that’s what it says after the word, “then”. So, should we pray for revival? Of course! That’s what we see the Psalmist doing in many of the verses above. But can we reduce the work of a sovereign God to a man-dependant formula? No. Revival is the work of God. So we must pray. We are in a transition to in the life of our church  it is vital that we understand and embrace God’s mission for us. But if God doesn’t move to make this happen and we don’t open our hearts it will be in vain . Please pray and let us search our own hearts.

Blogging to Equip.

Posted: October 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

I created this blog to help to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” leading to the name “equipology.” Believing that Scripture is the only thing that can truly “equip” us and “that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).” My hope is that this blog will help us look at contemporary issues and wrestle through how to handle them biblically.

Many sites and blogs do this and do it well. But the focus here is particularly to be a resource to equip the believers God has entrusted me with at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Spartanburg, SC. My wife encouraged me to do this a while back, citing  John Piper’s ministry’s blog (he’s from Greenville, SC by the way).  I’ve done it when serving as a missionary to better inform and interact with our prayer partners.  Starting now well help me I pray in an organized and digital method to better equip the saints in a way that has not been as effective in the past via mass emails or facebook notes.  My goal is not to have anything fancy or get a bunch of hits but again to help me equip believers and interact with them via web.  So enjoy and I hope to hear some feedback, especially from our Oak Grovers!