Matthew R. Perry

Archive for 2009|Yearly archive page

Bro. Matt’s Blog has moved to “Gripped By The Gospel”

In Church Life on October 6, 2009 at 5:20 pm

I have moved all of the content of this blog to http://gbtg.wordpress.com.  Stop on by!

When the Spirit of God Begins To Move (Sinclair Ferguson)

In church, revival, Worship on May 14, 2009 at 12:10 pm

(I recently came across this in Ferguson’s work, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life, and had to share this with you.)

Many years ago, I witnessed revival in its most microcosmic form in a sudden, unexpected, and remarkable work of God’s Spirit on a friend. The work was so dramatic, the effect so radical, that news of it spread quickly to different parts of the country. People were asking, “Just what exactly happened?”

Five things seemed to have happened, and they were still fresh in the memory two and a half decades later:

  1. A painful exposure of the particular sin of unbelief occurred. Listening to preaching was a staple of my friend’s spiritual diet, but what came with overpowering force was a sense that God’s Word had actually been despised inwardly. God’s own Word, preaching in the power of the Spirit, stripped away the mask of inner pride and outward reputation for spirituality. There was a fearful exposure of sin.
  2. A powerful desire arose to be free from all sin. A new affection came, as if unbidden, into the heart. Indeed, a desire seemed to be given actually to have sin increasingly revealed and exposed in order that it might be confessed, pardoned, and cleansed. Disturbing though it was, there was a sweetness of grace in the pain.
  3. The love of Christ now seemed marvelous beyond measure. A love for Him flowed from a heart that could not get enough of Christ, ransacking Scripture to discover more and more about Him.
  4. A new love for God’s Word was born—for reading it, for hearing it expounded and applied, and especially for knowing every expression of God’s will, so that it might be obeyed.
  5. A compassionate love for others now flowed. It came from this double sense of sin and need on the one hand and grace and forgiveness on the other. Christian witness ceased to be a burden and became the expression of Spirit-wrought and powerful new affections.

________

From Matt:

I do not know about you, reading over this and then writing it here makes my heart long for this work to happen among us. Does this describe you? This is not simply for the super-saints—this is what God has in store for true followers of Him. May we set our sails and be ready when God decides to move among us—and may we be joyfully obedient in the meantime.

Membership: Does It Have Value for American Christians?

In church on May 12, 2009 at 4:34 pm

This summer, our leadership here at Boone’s Creek will evaluate the role of membership.  Some churches have decided against membership, some make their membership very stringent.  Some are, obviously, at all points  in-between! 

In the case of our church, we have a number who are what we call non-attending members.  They are non-attending for the following reasons:

  • They are attending elsewhere, but for sentimental reasons they keep their membership at our church;
  • They have moved away, but have not joined another church;
  • Some take issues about how a certain ministry
  • Personal illnesses or illnesses of family members, making it necessary to stay close-by;
  • Many we cannot contact either by mail, e-mail, nor telephone. 

While we as churches are very stringent on being accountable in other areas of our church (finances, music, starting/ending time, temperature of the room), but the covenant of membership is seen as something of little importance or even necessity (Hebrews 10:23-25; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:32-37).

The True Church

Our Declaration of Faith defines the true church as:

We believe that a church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a congregation of baptized believers; associated by a covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel of Christ; taking the Holy Bible as the only rule of faith and practice; observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by His laws; and exercising the gifts, rights, and the privileges invested in them by His Word; that its only scriptural officers are bishop or pastor and deacons; that the true mission of the church is found in the Great Commission, Matt. 28:19-20; that the only head of the church is Christ; that the sole authority for faith and practice is the Scriptures; that such a church has the absolute right of self-government, free from the interference of any (17.  The True Church, Declaration of Faith, Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY). 

This article is thick with understanding the nature of the church.  Nestled away in this is a very key phrase:  “…associated by a covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel of Christ.”  When people join their church, there is some significant understandings that must be brought forth:

  1. The church of Christ consists of baptized believers.  You have to be a Christian to unite with a local body of believers in Christ. 
  2. Baptism demonstrates your willingness to identify with the body of Christ in obeying what He teaches through His Word and His people. 
  3. The Scriptures are the centerpiece of worship because the centerpiece of the Scriptures is Christ;
  4. We exercise the “gifts, rights, and privileges invested” by His Word;
  5. We observe the ordinances (baptism and Lord’s Supper) as a local church;
  6. The Great Commission is the true mission of the church;
  7. Christ is the head of the church;
  8. The church is self-governed under Christ’s headship.

How could we take membership in a local church lightly?   When we covenant to invest our time, gifts, talents, and presence among God’s people to strengthen them in the faith, this is a decidedly serious matter.  We link arms with our brothers and sisters in Christ to spread the glory of God from our neighbors to the nations.  We strengthen one another in Christ, and share the gospel of Christ. 

Over this summer, our emphasis here at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church is to get a greater grasp of the Kingdom of God and the role Christians play as citizens of that Kingdom!  Please check back!

Being a Titus 2 Woman

In home, parenting on May 8, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled (Titus 2:3-5).

Those of you who are around me anytime at all realize my love for the country of Trinidad & Tobago. My heart aches especially for the pastors down there who have very little training on how to minister to their people and what training they do have comes from some very problematic sources.

What I noticed at the church at Mt. Beulah where we ministered previously was a row of elderly women who sat in very special seats up front. At first, I just thought it was how they were arranged, but then I noticed that for each of those women, Roddie Taylor addressed them as “Mother.” “Mother Jones, Mother Taylor, etc.” At the church in Siparia, these women sat in more prominent seats: right up next to the stairs. These women were the seasoned saints of the church who had poured their lives into that church for decades. They held a place of honor and influence for the things of God.

Although it’s been 18 months since I’ve been there, this fact ran across my mind given that Mother’s Day was approaching. I confess that I really debated on what to preach. While many may look on this day with much affection, for some this day is more difficult that one could realize for many different reasons.

I would like to use this day as an opportunity to address another difficulty that many churches deal with: what role do women play in the church? In a country where women have only been able to vote only since 1920, in a country where many TV shows from the 1950s and 1960s portrayed women as bubbleheaded ditzes, in a culture where the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s moved the long-established cultural lines of role of men and women— the churches came along and reacted one of two ways. One way was to go along with the culture and move the lines of the role of genders where the culture did. Another way was to overreact and move the lines even further than what was before. As a result, whether the churches were liberal or fundamentalist, the lines were ones that suited them but weren’t necessarily what the Bible spoke on.

This is Mother’s Day and we had the blessed opportunity to honor the mothers who were present. I will be honest: every year I debate as to whether to preach a Mother’s Day sermon, for various reasons.

  • Some are struggling with conceiving. They have tried for months, even years, to have a child but for various reasons they cannot. Like many in the Scriptures (Sarah, Hannah, etc.) who could not conceive right away, they felt the societal stigma directed toward them. Barrenness had to do with sinfulness and judgment—which was not the case with either of them.
  • Some have lost children along the way, leaving this day as a painful reminder.
  • Some have wayward children, leaving one struggling with inadequacy and failure—the parents blame themselves for their child’s disobedience as evidence of their failure as parents.

My desire is that every single woman in this church would be a Titus 2 Woman. A Titus 2 Woman embraces the role God has established that complements other areas of life and ministry in the church. Also, a Titus 2 Woman takes time to invest not just in its own generation but in the generations that have gone before as well as the ones coming up. A Titus 2 Woman is not ashamed of God nor His Word. So let’s see what God has in store for us this morning.

1.    A Titus 2 woman is an example of spiritual maturity.

Look at Titus 2:3. “Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine.” Titus was a young pastor who followed Paul as a disciple for a good while before ministering on the island of Crete. Titus oversaw a number of churches and sought to model the Lord’s teaching through Paul. Titus worked on two fronts: staving off the false teachers on one front, and stabilizing the immaturity of the faithful on another front.

But also the fact that Paul is even addressing women was quite contrary to that culture. Women were not highly esteemed. Older women and widows were virtually ignored and neglected. Yet here, Paul addresses them. That in itself was significant to many, but not to Paul. In Galatians 3:28, Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul understood from Christ that there was an equality of souls that could go before the Lord. There was an understanding even from Genesis 1:26-27 and God made both “male and female” in his image.

So Paul comes along and encourages the older women in the assembly to be “reverent.” The word used here in the Greek only occurs here out of the entire New Testament and deals with a notion of being priestlike and being a person of holiness.[2] This ties in with 1 Peter 3:4 which says, “Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4).

Paul brings this up because older women, especially widows, who for the most part have more time on their hands due to retirement, children being away from home, etc., have certain temptation that may come along to fill the time. He notes that women should not be “slanderers.” This word in the English comes from the Greek diabolous which is where we get the word ‘diablo’ or Devil. The Devil is a slanderer and an accuser, specifically to the saints of God (Revelation 12). The temptation is to look at the world or even the church and spend time lamenting how different it is, how bad it is, how awful so-and-so is. When driving by Lexington Baptist Temple the other day, I saw a sign on their marquee saying, “Beware: if someone is gossiping to you about someone else, then they are also gossiping to someone else about you.”

Paul also warns for older women not to be “slaves to much wine.” Why would this be a temptation? Simply put, to dull and take the edge off the pain. Most of the older women were widows, and even with the best of memories from the past, loneliness can be the most painful thing a person can endure. Also, many older women (and men) struggle with physical issues that cause great physical pain and the temptation is to drink “much wine” for medicinal purposes. The Apostle Paul advised young Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach issues (likely due to the pressure of pastoring a church).

What is the point here? Paul is lovingly admonishing the seasoned saints who have more time on their hands due to retirement, maybe loss of spouse and the empty nest syndrome to use that constructively building up rather than being destructive in tearing down. So how should the women use their time? Let’s look:

2. A Titus 2 woman trains younger women in three areas:

In Titus 2:4-5a, Paul advices Titus to challenge the older women to “train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands.” So Paul here gives not only a challenge to the older women but also to the young women as well. Another word for ‘train’ is the word ‘disciple.’ A Titus 2 Woman has a decidedly crucial role in discipleship in the local church. This is not a program, per se. This is a lifestyle use of time to help the next generation of women be, well, women. Why is this important? Because there is a confusion of roles in our day — some understandable, some not.

For instance, over half the homes in the United States with children have single parents, usually single mothers. In that case, moms not only have to be moms but dads as well. But even if both are present, when one person in the home abdicates their God-ordained role and function in the home, others have to compensate and disharmony ensues.

Older women are to come along and train the younger women, first, on how to have a godly marriage. Paul addresses two areas dealing with the husband-wife relationship. They are to “love their husbands … and be submissive to their own husbands.” First, let’s look at the love. He is not talking about what Gary Chapman of the Five Love Languages calls the tingles. You remember: you meet your potential spouse, feel the warm fuzzies and the tingles, and have those overwhelming feelings of where you can’t be without them. You get married. Then after two years or so, the tingles go away. Sadly, many believe that they do not love the other person because the tingles are gone. They miss an important aspect.

The word love here comes from the word philandros with the root word philo that is a friendship type of love, as opposed to the emotional sexual type of love depicted by the word eros which is where we get the word ‘erotic.’ See, some believe the marriage is over when that’s all there is. But in many ways this is when it’s just beginning. This type of love is a love of the will — a conscious decision and commitment not only to your husband but also to God who brought you both together. In this way, they are to stay “pure,” morally, biblically, and sexually.

What about the submissive part? Again, don’t let the culture tell you that this means that men are to walk all over you. For one, this is not saying women should submit to all men, just their own husbands. Secondly, while this may seem as if it gives men a blank check to treat their wives however, remember men that God called you to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Ephesians 5:24). Women will not mind submitting to a husband that sees himself as a fellow servant fulfilling his role. This is what Paul means in that the young women are to be kind — why? — because they are driven by the Gospel. Ephes. 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

How to be a godly mother. One of the saddest articles I read was one by Linda Hirschman of Chicago. She had written a book urging mothers to go full-bore into the work force, especially those who had college education. Why? Because staying at home with the children deprives our society of their skill sets. While situations and circumstances may take women into the workplace, may it not be because of that. May it not be because you feel as if you are less of a woman and less of a contribution to society if you stay home. If that’s the case, someone forgot to send God a memo.

Paul tells the older women to train the younger women to “love their children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, and kind.” As un-P.C. as this sounds, God has wired the women to be the nurturers. And children see this, gravitating to their moms in a special way. What is Paul saying: he is saying to give children a sacrificial love that cannot be denied. Some couples want to keep their lives just the same even when they have children. But it just doesn’t work that way. Children bring about sacrifice. The husband and wife come together as mom and dad. What’s the goal?

How to be a godly model of the faith. The goal is to model, to live, and to train the upcoming generation (as the older women should be training you) in the very same things — especially in how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and how to live out the Gospel in every aspect of your life. Let’s flesh this out a bit more.

3.    A Titus 2 woman is one who exalts the majesty of God and His Word.

Every person on the planet struggles with direction. Will we follow our own direction, someone else’s, or the direction God has for us as outlined in His Word. A Titus 2 woman has no qualms about following God’s commands, even if the world considers those demands repressive, oppressive or outdated.

A Titus 2 woman (like every other Christian) submits to the role that God has for her gladly. We must remember that while there is no difference in our souls, there is a difference in our roles in the Kingdom of God. God has wired us to function within the boundaries he has laid out for us, established even in the order of creation with the husband serves as the spiritual authority (as mentioned last time), so it is that a male leadership is in place in the household of faith. We have specific functions within that framework.

In 1 Timothy 2:7-12, Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wrote:

For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle ( I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. [8] I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; [9] likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, [10] but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. [11] Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. [12] I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

Is there controversy over this text? Absolutely. It is good for us to look at what this passage is and is not saying:

This passage is saying that women should be known for their godliness, not their goldliness.

This passage is not saying that women should avoid all sorts of make-up, jewelry, the fixing of the hair, etc.

Sadly, many women want to use their appearance to draw attention to themselves. In the process, they may be unaware of how much of a stumbling block they may be to others, especially men. “What is proper for women who profess godliness” is that their “good works” draw attention to the glory of God and His kingdom, not to the glory of their looks.

This passage is saying that the created order applies to the household of God in regards to men being the governing spiritual authority.

This passage is not saying that women are second class citizens nor are they to obey men in every segment of society.

Ligon Duncan, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, insightfully observes that while in our day this may sound condescending and constraining, “to the recipients of this letter it was an innovative invitation to learn.”[3] Women came from a background in which they were considered second-class citizens who could not be entrusted with the Word of God.

They were to learn quietly, causing no disturbance in their newly given freedom to learn the Word of God. They were to model (as were all Christians) as 1 Peter 3:4 says regarding this very topic: “[L]et your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

Kent Hughes rightly notes:

It must be noted that these instructions have nothing directly to say about teaching and authority in the marketplace or the academy or the public square. They are about order in the church. Neither do these directives allow any man within the church, by virtue of his gender, to exercise authority over women in the church. Such more generally explicit authority only exists within the sacred covenant of marriage and family, and then it is only to be exercised with the self-giving spirit of Christ.[4]

So women are not simply to submit to men in general. They are (like everyone) to, as Hebrews 13:17 says:

17Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

As in our personal households, there is a model of male headship in the household of God because God created it in this model.

Those who object to these conclusions bring up 1 Corinthians 14:33b-35:

As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Those who claim that this is merely contextual must notice that Paul says, “As in all the churches of the saints… .” This is not merely for the Corinthian church.

Secondly, the context of this passage is necessary to understand. Paul here is discussing prophecy. Prior to the New Testament’s canon closing, God would give revelation of His Word to leaders in the church who would then report (prophesy) what God revealed. At that point, having a women be in that type of authoritative position would fall outside the parameters of God ordaining men as the spiritual head under Christ’s headship. It is in this aspect, that women are to remain quiet.

John S. Hammett concedes:

It is difficult to match Paul’s understanding of teaching and exercising authority to contemporary situations. Does a female teacher of youth violate it? How about a female associate pastor, choir director, or seminary professor? These are difficult questions, for which Scripture gives no explicit answer. Perhaps the best approach is to consider the popular perception of the position: is it seen as involving an authoritative position of teaching and leading men?[5]

So the ultimate point is, in the framework of ecclesiastical government and leadership in the church, women may serve in a myriad of functions and contribute greatly (in fact, many churches’ doors would have closed long ago had it not been for the contributions of the women), God has clearly spoken in regards to authority: as with the created order in the home, so in the household of God, that men are the ones to serve in the teaching, preaching, and governing capacity.

Conclusion

In our time together, we have brought to bear the biblical principles regarding being a Titus 2 woman. In this, we have seen her as a spiritually mature discipler, submissive to the Word of God, willing to come alongside other women to disciple and to be discipled. There is no sense of a consumer-oriented understanding governing this woman (“What does this church/person have to offer for me?”), but a servant-oriented follower of Christ (“What can I do to advance the Kingdom of God under the glorious boundaries of the Word of God?”).

May God grant us a vision to develop and equip Titus 2 women.

clip_image002Matthew Perry serves as pastor of Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, Kentucky, where he has served since September 2003. You may access his church’s website at http://www.boonescreekchurch.com or his blog at http://www.grippedbythegospel.com which serves as the launching point of his Gripped By The Gospel Ministries. He would enjoy hearing from you, so send him an e-mail at matt@grippedbythegospel.com .


[1]This sermon was preached on Sunday, May 11, 2008 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY, for our Mother’s Day Service.

[2]John MacArthur. Titus. p. 77.

[3]J. Ligon Duncan, III, and Susan Hunt, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 72.

[4]R. Kent Hughes and Bryan Chappell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (Wheaton: IL, Crossway Books, 2000), 69; quoted in J. Ligon Duncan, III, and Susan Hunt, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 74.

[5]Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 359.

The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts

In church, spiritual gifts on May 7, 2009 at 8:39 am

This is a study given on Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.

____________ 

“A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1016).

Last week, we discussed the gift that God has given in leaders. Ephesians 4:11-12 says:

 

11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.

Your leaders are not to receive authority because of who they are, but because on account of the who He is—he gave these leaders to the churches to lead them in Christ’s direction and to help them grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18) and to exercise their gifts.

What are these gifts that we are to exercise? They are simply called spiritual gifts: gifts God gives to individual members of his body.

(1) What is the purpose of these gifts?

Let’s continue on in Ephesians 4:13-16

13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

What can we cull from these verses?

    • Unity in the faith and Knowledge of the Son of God
    • …which moves toward maturity and the fullness of Christ
    • …so we may no longer be children easily deceived but anchored in the Head, which is Christ.
    • …so every member may be held together as it should
    • …so we are built up in love.

(2) What are these gifts?

Different passages outline various gifts.  Grudem offers this list (Systematic Theology):

1 Corinthians 12:28

Apostle

Prophet

Teacher

Miracles

Kinds of healings

Helps

Administration

Tongues

 

1 Corinthians 12:8-10

Word of wisdom

Word of knowledge

Faith

Gifts of healing miracles

Prophecy

Distinguishing b/t spirits

Tongues

Interpretation of tongues

Ephesians 4:11

Apostles

Prophet

Evangelist

Pastor-teacher

Romans 12:6-8

Prophecy

Serving

Teaching

Encouraging

Contributing

Leadership

Mercy

1 Cor. 7:7

Marriage

Celibacy

We must know these things:

  • God gives these gifts to each and every member of His body. None are exempt…and none are without excuse in regards to exercising that gift. God makes these gifts clear to us in a number of ways:
            • Instilling a love for doing or serving in various ways;
            • Spiritual gifts tests (although we must realize that they are man-made and risk having biases);
            • Confirmation from other Spirit-led brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • We must also realize that these gifts are developed differently in various Christians (Romans 12:6; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6).
  • Not every Christian has every gift (1 Corinthians 12:28-31).
  • When you know what your gift is, use it!
  • Make sure those gifts are backed by love (since Paul, after listing those gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28-30, said “I will show you a more excellent way,” after which he proceeded into the love chapter. 

Regardless, we must know that as Christians, we have gifts given by God himself that spread His glory from our neighbors to the nations—given to strengthen His people and share His gospel.

Question:

· What type of spiritual gift do you think you have?

· What is something that God has given you a love for?

· In what ways can you use that gift? In what ways will you use that gift?

· Do you ever envy another gift someone may have? Why?

If someone gives you a gift, and you fail to use it, you offend the one who gave that gift to you. However, many Christians fail to realize how we offend the holiness and direction of the Father who gives His sons and daughters gifts to exercise, yet never exercise them. And we must be content and thankful for whatever gift God has granted to us—without envying the gifts that others may have!

Yet, beware of taking this gift that God gives you and using it as a opportunity for pride. Remember, even with these gifts, Paul would show us a “more excellent way”—which leads us into 1 Corinthians 13, known as the “Love” chapter. You can have the gifts, but if there is no love to bolster those gifts, then those gifts are nothing. The gifts are not meant to point to the one who was given the gift—the gifts were meant to glorify and point to the giver.

Getting Ready for Sunday Morning Worship

In church on May 6, 2009 at 5:41 pm

bcbcRecently, I put up a Facebook status saying, in essence, how helpful it would be for us to start getting ready for Sunday worship on Saturday evening—and cut down on the TV, Facebook, or other things that distract us from being alert and ready the next morning.  I received a lot of interesting feedback. 

Yet, it would be good for us to consider some practical ways to prepare ourselves for our times of corporate worship:

  1. Turn off the television on Saturday evenings!  What is there on network television or cable that lifts up the mind to heavenly heights?  I struggle with this, especially during football season because ABC usually has a great game on with kickoff at 8:00 p.m. EST.  But I must.
  2. Turn off the computer.  So much information, so many helpful (and unhelpful) websites, so many sites that help us network (MySpace, Facebook, Twitter ), means so many ways to distract.  Psalm 119:15-16 is a helpful tonic. 
  3. Lay out your clothes and church materials the night before.  “What will I wear?  What will the kids wear?  How about this?  No, this doesn’t fit anymore?  Where are my/your/their shoes?  Oh no, my shirt isn’t ironed!”  As a father of four, there is no shortage of things that can deter you from making it to church on time.  Take time the night before to lay your clothes and your small children’s clothes out the night before.  You will be amazed at the amount of time this saves for Sunday morning (and how much of our attitude is helped by this).
  4. Take time to pray with your family about the service the next day.  Our children (and ourselves, too) need to realize the mammoth importance of corporate worship before God and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. 
  5. Get up at a good hour.  If you have to be at morning Bible study at, say, 9:45, and you are married or have children, getting up at 8:30 will not help.  Getting up at 8:00 is better.  It’s good to leave 30-45 minutes on average for each person in your house (women usually take longer than this, men usually take shorter, along with your children’s dress, the brushing of teeth, the meals, etc.).  We have six at our house—so we get up at 6:30-6:45 out of necessity.
  6. Have some Christian music or some Scripture on.  For me, Isaac Watts hymns, Sovereign Grace Music, or even Elvis Presley singing the hymns (yes, you read correctly) help focus the mind.   Having the daily Scripture from the ESV site read to me is priceless as well.
  7. Take time that morning to read through the morning’s sermon Scripture.  I post this in our monthly newsletter for this reason—so we may prepare our minds and hearts to receive that Word.  Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of FBC-Grand Cayman, recommends that we spend time each day doing this (Acts 17:10-15—let’s be Bereans!). 
  8. Enter into your morning Bible study expectantly ready to receive the Word.  Same with morning worship.  Allow nothing to distract you from your time of worship (Psalm 100).  Even well-meaning fellowship before the service may distract from our focus and concentration as we ready ourselves to hear God’s revealed Word.

What are some other things that help you?

A Biblical Case Against Gambling (Hershael York)

In Gambling on May 2, 2009 at 3:32 pm

In light of the Kentucky Derby running today, I wanted to pass along Hershael York’s insightful article on “A Biblical Case Against Gambling.”

God Has Called Us To Be Expositional Listeners

In church on May 1, 2009 at 8:29 pm

You’ve heard of expositional preaching, which is taking the main point of a passage of Scripture and making it the main point of a sermon.

But did you know there is such a thing as “expositional listening”? Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the first chapter of his book, What is a Healthy Member? says, “Just as the pastor’s preaching agenda should be determined by the meaning of Scripture, so too should the Christian’s listening agenda be driven by the meaning of Scripture” (19).

Have you ever thought about this being one of your roles in worship? Why is this so crucial for us to tune in to the Word? Anyabwile continues:

1. This benefits us by cultivating a hunger for God’s Word (Psalm 119:103-104).

2. This helps us focus on God’s will and to follow Him (John 10:27).

3. This protects the gospel and our lives from corruption (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

4. This encourages faithful pastors (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Timothy 5:17).

5. This benefits the gathered congregation as they strive toward unity.

How do we cultivate this habit?

1. Meditate on the sermon passage during your quiet time the week before.

2. Invest in a good set of commentaries.

3. Talk and pray with friends about the sermon after church.

4. Listen to and act on the sermon throughout the week.

5. Develop the habit of addressing any questions about the text itself.

6. Cultivate humility.

Romans 10:17 says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Won’t you develop this very helpful habit as you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)?

We’ll Remember Eight Belles—And Her Creator

In Kentucky on May 1, 2009 at 12:45 pm

John Clay’s article, "Eight Belles Connections Trying to Move Past Tragedy," is an especially sad reminder of how fragile life is, even among such powerful and majestic creatures as horses.  While the average fan may not remember who won Derby 134 (Big Brown, by the way), everyone remembers the tragedy during turn 1 of the Kentucky Derby one year ago today. 

I moved to Kentucky in 1995 and soon began to appreciate the greatness of God’s equine creations.   While I do not gamble on the sport, I do enjoy the strength they put on display.

I’m reminded of a verse in Scripture:

"Some trust in horses, others in chariots;
     but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God" (Psalm 20:7, ESV).

While the original context is a warning against trusting in military might for your security, it also is very apropos here as well. Larry Jones mentioned how he is moving on–even with the great pain he is experiencing.  He is being reminded daily of this tragedy.

Yet, even he was beyond surprised when this glorious creature had to be euthanized right there on the track–showing that no matter the strength, there is a limit.  There is no way to prepare for it, no way to lessen the pain, no way to reverse the tragedy.

My prayer is that Larry Jones (and all others) will trust in the one who remains.  Even though God made every one of us, our desire to  stray from His will and way brought the curse of sin and death into this world.  Yet God loved us enough not to leave us that way, but sent His perfect Son into the world to live perfectly before God (2 Cor. 5:21) so that He may atone for our sins by standing in our place before God, taking our sin and its penalty so that we may be made righteous before him (Romans 3:21-26). 

While horses are majestic, there is One who is far more majestic and who accomplished more than our feeble minds could imagine.  In the midst of a world filled with death and tragedy, there is hope.  May it be in the name of the Lord our God through Jesus Christ!

=====

We hope you’ll come by Boone’s Creek Baptist Church here in Lexington and join us for one of our worship services.  We are located just off Exit 104 on I-75.  If you’re in Lexington, get on Richmond Road and drive toward the Interstate.  Cross over the Interstate and go 1.5 miles into the Village of Athens.  Turn left on N. Cleveland Road, and we are on the left.  For more information, go to http://www.boonescreekchurch.com .  To read Pastor Matt’s blog, click here.

When Death Becomes Life: Remembering My Friend, Brian Hamrick

In death on April 25, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Brian Hamrick

Brian Hamrick both lost and won on April 24, 2009.

I met Brian soon after he became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Clewiston, Florida, via e-mail and telephone. He and I shared the same convictions theologically and pastorally, making him a fast friend in the faith. I had the privilege of serving at FBC from 1998-2001 as their Minister of Music and Youth, so I had grown very close to that wonderful church family.

When Cindy and I went to Florida on our 10th anniversary trip in August ‘08, we went to Clewiston where Brian was gracious enough to allowed me to preach. The night before, I went to Glen Pridgen’s, one of FBC’s deacon’s home, where I met Brian and his incredible family.

What struck me was their love for the people at FBC. Sure, we talked about his beloved Washington Redskins, enjoyed some good steak, and had some great fellowship—but he had a desire to see the city of Clewiston know our sovereign God.

I only spoke with him a couple more times since that Sunday. With me being 37, him being 33, I never thought that we would not have other opportunities to speak—be it a conference or convention or some other get-together.

Brian suffered due to a surgery caused by three feet of his small intestines necrotizing, causing sepsis (it had seeped into the bloodstream). Even though he was improving, a blood clot cut loose, thus giving him a Home-going sooner than anyone imagined.

But the hope that Brian had in Christ—Christ was his treasure. According to Tom Ascol’s wonderful article, Brian told him that if the Lord chose to heal him, then fine, “but if not, I’m ready for that too. It’s OK.”

Psalm 139:15-16 says:

15 My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

God has our days in a book, so this did not catch him by surprise. We are all tainted by the curse and, therefore, our physical bodies last only a short while. But Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” So true. Only the Christian could say with confidence that death is precious.

Brian lost his life on Saturday at the age of 33. Brian’s wife lost her husband. Brian’s children lost their father. Brian’s church lost their pastor. Brian’s friends have lost their friends. Death, though precious by a heavenly perspective, is devastating during such a time as this.

But we can take heart in knowing that Christ’s death and resurrection won a victory for Brian. Brian at this moment now has never been more alive than he is right now. “Absent from the body is present with the Lord” –and so he is!

Pray for Katherine, his wife, and his two children, that the memory and legacy he left behind would move to them as they carry forward with faith in the faith. Pray for First Baptist Church: their associate pastor, Josh Vincent, and their worship pastor, Todd Buck as God helps them process the loss of their pastor and friend. May God use this time for us to reflect on how fleeting this life is—but how glorious He is in that He delivers us from its inevitable clutches.