Bob's Blog
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July 8, 2016, 12:51 PM

SBC Is NOT Supporting Mosques

I said in a Facebook post that I would research this topic and address it more fully.  Well, I have and I am.

In the past couple of weeks, I have had no less than 10+ conversations about the rumor that the Southern Baptist Convention is supporting the building of a mosque in New Jersey.  The rumor has been everything from just a verbal agreement to the accusation that SBC Cooperative Program money is helping build this mosque.  So, lets start where the rumor began.

  • This began as an article written in "The End Times" - an online website that reports stories related to Christian topics.  A link to the actual story is here:  "Mosques Across America."  I encourage you to read the original story befor proceeding.
  • Another similar story appeared in "Pulpit and Pen."  A link to that story is here:  SBC Supports Mosque Building Effort
  • At the recent Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, a messenger questioned Dr. Russell Moore about the above-mentioned rumor.  His reply, in essence, was to deny such SBC involvement and stated that any his actions (see below) were in defense of religious liberty, not in support of building a mosque.

So, now you know some of what has caused such an uproar in at least one of our churches.  And, I would be right alongside other Baptists in my indignation...IF THIS WERE TRUE!

So, let's do as I said in my original Facebook post and check out the sources:

  • First, "The End Times" article - Didn't it seem just a little over-the-top and unbelievable.  Well, that's because it is intended to be so.  Go back to that page and look closely at the title of the website (or the graphic to the right):  "The End Times:  Apocalyptic Christian Satire."  That's right - SATIRE.  This is a purposeful exaggeration to provoke the audience.  In other words, if you believed it, you have been duped and the authors are sitting back and laughing because they accomplished their goal.  In fact, just the fact that I'm having to take time to explain this to you satisfies their desire to create an uproar over nothing.  Other than for sick humor, this article should be dismissed altogether.  That means there is no such thing as "Mosques Across America," the SBC is not supporting it, the quotes used never happened, and in case you read more, Rick Warren did not write a book called "The Purpose-Driven Mosque."
  • Second, "the Pulpit and the Pen" gives the impression that they are credible.  And, their argument takes up a little different approach. This is where more research is necessary.  Their facts are still skewed and the authors jump to conclusions far beyond what Russell Moore has said or done.  In addition, the headline accuses all of the SBC for the actions of one person in one entity.  Beyond that is the credibility of the authors.  I cannot find any informatation on their background, their qualifications, or any other positive review as to their writing.  In addition, a quick glance at other articles on their site shows a strong prejudice against the SBC as a whole.  I cannot find any explanation for this, but it is not objective reporting on the facts.  I didn't find a single positive article on the SBC on the entire site.
  • So, here is another link to a Baptist Press article refuting the rumor:  Mosque-Building rumor exposed as a lie.

Let me just add clarification to what Dr. Russell Moore of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the International Mission Board actually did.  They signed an amicus (friend of the court) brief.  An amicus brief is a document given to the court from an outside party or parties where they share concern that the outcome of a particular case may have broader implications than to just those parties explicitly represented by the case.  In the case of the NJ community denying a Muslim group to build a mosque, the broader implications are that they could also deny other religious groups the same rights...including Southern Baptists.  In fact, a Baptist church was denied the right to re-locate just a few years earlier in the same region.  The denial to build a mosque in this case is an issue of religious liberty and freedom, a fundamental principle for which Baptists have fought for hundreds of years.  No SBC leader is supporting Islam, in fact Dr. Moore has used this process to proclaim the true gospel - of salvation only through Jesus Christ - on multiple occasions.  If you will research all of his quotes, you will note how he and others have spoken against radical Islam and clearly proclaimed our Baptist beliefs.  He, nor any SBC leaders, ever endorse Islam in any of their quotes but constantly refer to our differences and distinctions.  Check out this article as well:  Mosque Lawsuit Brings Concern (On this one, be sure to read all the accompanying info.)

As I close, I want to re-state some things.  First, remember two Baptist distinctives:  the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church.  You as an individual and you as a church body are not bound by or to the actions or statements of our SBC leaders.  Our denomination functions from the church up, not from the SBC down.  You have the right to believe what you want based on what you have read and can even lead your church body to take action.  

This brings me to my second statement.  As you practice these two distinctives...DO DILIGENT RESEARCH!  This entire issue is based in a hoax and exaggeration, and Satan is having a field day that something so simple could get us off track and out of fellowship.  Yes, there is a story there.  But the true story is that one of our elected SBC leaders is actually defending Baptist distinctives on our behalf and at the same time using this platform as an opportunity for evangelism.  It is somewhat frustrating to me that I must even take time to research this topic for people who have not taken the time to check this out fully for themselves.  But, I do accept that as one of my responsibilities - to be in touch with what is truly going on in SBC life and keep our parishioners informed.  One of the primary principles of fervent Bible study is determining context.  You cannot take Scripture out of context and expect to find God's true message and you musn't take information out of context or from unproven sources.  

Last, I have to question why anyone's first reaction would be indignation with our SBC representatives instead of faith in them.  These men and women are often some of the most godly, Bible believing people I've ever met.  Yet, I have seen and heard people openly blast Dr. Russell Moore (and others) as if they know him personally, know his intentions, and know his heart.  But they have never sat down to research what he actually believes and does. Furthermore, it is completely unbiblical to speak poorly of a brother or sister in Christ without ever having discussed the offense face to face.  In fact, Jesus says to lay down your offering and go to that brother and make it right (Matthew 5:23-24) when there is an un-reconciled offense.  Sometimes we are just too far removed from a situation to really know the heart of a matter without getting to know the people involved and learning to trust them.

Just some random thoughts...as always, my phone and door are open if you want to discuss this more.

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March 14, 2016, 12:00 AM

Finding the Ever-Elusive Will of God

Like Solomon in pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, we as Christians are often perplexed by the pursuit of God's will.  We claim to have found it in a decision-making process, or a Bible study, or some event that we interpret as a divine revelation from God.  This intrigues me...especially when supposedly well-meaning godly people come up with different ideas about God's will on the same topic.  Much of my studies as of late keep bringing me back to this topic of how we determine God's will and all the variables that effect our interpretation of the signs.

Let me just muse a bit about what I feel God has revealed in my life so far...
(Please understand, this is not a dissertation or iron-clad truth.  Just my little thoughts on a Monday morning.  There is so much more that could be added, but...)

Where/How to find God's Will?  What to trust...

  • The Bible - It never ceases to amaze me the number of times I've heard or seen people say that they believe God wants this or that for them and it is directly contrary to the teaching of God's Word.  GOD WILL NOT CONTRADICT HIMSELF!  If something is clearly taught in scripture, God - through the prompting of the Holy Spirit or circumstances - will not lead you to do something else.  Many people erroneously teach that "God just wants me to be happy."  That verse can be found in 2 Hesitations next to "cleanliness is next to godliness."  It just isn't there.  God wants you to be HOLY.  Joy of salvation (Psalm 51) and the full joy of Christ (John 15) comes as a result of obedience to God's commands, confession of sin when it is present, and the pursuit of holiness.  This is the attempt to live daily in the will of God by following His teachings.  When we are living moment by moment as a follower of Him, the likelihood of discerning His Will is increased a thousandfold.
  • The Holy Spirit - Much like the written Word, God, the Holy Spirit, intercedes and directs us towards fulfillment of God's will.  Also just like the Bible, the Holy Spirit will never lead you to do something contrary to what God has already declared.  The problem with people and following the direction of the Holy Spirit is that we allow "subjectivity" to supercede "objectivity."  We allow some of our personal beliefs (whether based on the Bible or not) or current circumstances to dictate our thinking.
  • Godly counsel - There is wisdom in the multitude of counselors.  Several Proverbs (11:14, 15:22, 20:18) speak to the success one can achieve by seeking advice from others.  The key is to seek help from those that are godly.  Even better, seek out those who have been through it and came out on the other side victoriously.  Although not as trustworthy as God's Word or the Holy Spirit, God never intended for us to face the many things we face alone; and your misery or decision, although great, is probably no different than something any number of others have gone through.  However, do not always look for someone who will be on your side.  Go to someone who will be honest with you and "speak the truth in love."

How about the next topic - Where/How to find God's Will?  What NOT to trust (without some deep prayer and contemplation...)

  • Circumstances - Sometimes we place way too much stock in the circumstances surrounding us when "seeking" God's Will.  Yet, we never consider that the circumstances may not be of God either.  For instance, I have heard of situations where a couple is struggling with a marriage.  One of the partners starts to consider leaving because of another person that has come into his/her life.  The spiritualization goes something like this:  Why would God bring this person into my life at a time when my marriage is difficult?  It must be God's Will for me to be with him/her instead?  They desire the same things I desire, and God would want me to be happy?  I have so much in common with this person and we have so much fun together...they must be my soul-mate.  Sound familiar?  The problem with this and similar lines of "reason" (a term I use loosely) is that there is this assumption that God is in control of every circumstance of every facet of every person's life.  Although I would never question the overall sovereingty of God, this is not a Biblical concept.  Man was given free will and man is a sinner (Romans 3:23).  This opens the door to all sorts of possibilities/circumstances that are outside the desires and will of God and His holy nature.  Man cannot be wholely trusted, especially those who are not true followers of Christ.
  • Sudden Change - This could really fall under circumstances as well, but I continue to see this over and over again in the lives of churches and Christians.  Let me give an example:  You were asked to teach an adult class at church (or serve on a committee, etc.).  The nominating committee, church body, and/or staff prayed over the choice and came to the conclusion that your spiritual giftedness makes you a great fit for the position (i.e. God's Will).  You pray over it, contemplate, and determine God could use you in this manner as well (i.e. God's Will).  During the course of time, there arises conflict in your class...let's say, someone doesn't like your teaching.  Word gets back to you, you decide it isn't worth the hassle, say a quick prayer asking God to release you, and quit teaching (God's Will?).  Now was the decision to quit the position (teaching, committee member, marriage...) really God's Will?  Was He at the root of the change of direction, or did things just start to get a little bit tough?  Remember, Satan doesn't want us doing what is right in the eyes of God and will often throw out a "new" thing to confuse us and get us off track...to make us think God has intervened.  We must take our time and evaluate whether this is God's opportunity or Satan's obstacle.  
  • Self - What else not to trust?  Myself.  I don't always trust that "in the moment" I will do what is most godly.  We should all try to make decisions in advance or take ample time to make decisions about something.  Paul says the natural man doesn't understand the things of the Spirit.  I never want to make a rash decision based on my "natural" instincts.  If people have to wait, then so be it.  I'd rather be slow and right, than quick and wrong when it comes to living out God's will.

In either of these other occasions, circumstances of life or a sudden change of direction, I like to refer back to what I call "spritual markers" in my life. What are those specific times, places, decisions, even vows that I made when I know for certain I was in the center of God's Will?  Then I ask a few questions: 

     Does this new event or circumstance or change or direction contradict a decision or value God has previously revealed to me? 
     Can I continue to be effective pursuing God's Will in the direction He previously showed in spite or in conjuction with the new circumstances?
     What of my actions or emotions will best exemplify Christlikeness in relation to this new opportunity or obstacle?

I have a book in a box somewhere titled:  "The Bush Won't Burn and I'm All Out of Matches."  I love this title (and the book) because it so clearly illustrates the main problem we have in discerning God's will for our lives - selfish desire.  When God's will doesn't appear to line up with what makes us happy or comfortable, WE re-light the bush to see if God will give us a different message...that we like better.  Often in a stressful situation or at a time of decision-making, we will almost always default to what best serves our own interests - unless we are very prepared and fully under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Philippians 2:3-5 spells out the concept of the Mind of Christ - putting others before ourselves.  In order to have the Mind of Christ in reference to God's Will, we have to be sure we are pursuing His kingdom purpose and thinking of others before us.  There is no place for selfishness when seeking to follow the will of God.

Remember, God desires our holiness...joy and happiness is the result, not the pursuit.

These have been some more..."Deep thoughts from the shallow end" 

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July 7, 2015, 11:49 AM

AM Report: 2 Small Encounters

Last week, June 27-July 3, I had the opportunity to accompany 4 other men from FBC Harrison to help Axe 21 Church in Sherbrooke, Quebec with “Moving Day” and Axe 21 Church in Magog, Quebec with some construction.  Just to give some brief chronology and overview:

  • Saturday, we basically traveled, arrived and settled in.  Although I have traveled with several of the guys before, it was a good opportunity to get to know each of them a little better since we would be in such close company for the next several days.
  • Sunday, we worshipped at Axe 21 Sherbrooke that morning and had a fellowship meal with those that will make up Axe 21 Magog that evening.  The meal was a chance to reacquaint with old friends, meet new people of Magog and other volunteers and go over the plans for the week.  Sherbrooke church rents and meets in a theater in the downtown area.  The entire service is in French and all of the congregation sits around tables.  The sermon is almost always first with worship and reflection after the sermon.  This Sunday, one of the pastors (Philip) preached about David and Saul and allowing to God work out His will in His own timing.  In other words, we should be careful not to take matters into our own hands, God may have something else in mind.  Magog church has purchased a theater in their downtown area, but has not begun worship yet.  They anticipate a start date of September 27th.
  • Monday and Thursday were construction days at Magog.  Having helped with some early construction last year, I was amazed at the progress made on the old theater.  It will become a great house of worship.  The intent is to also continue to make the building available to the city for various events as well, keeping the relationship between the church and city leaders at a very high level.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday were “moving days” in Sherbrooke.  In Quebec, all lease agreements run from July 1st through June 30th.  So, this time every year, there are a lot of people moving from one location to another.  Axe 21 lines up volunteers and vehicles to help each year.  What unique couple of days of ministry.  There were groups from North Carolina, Virginia, Toronto (Ontario), and us.  Each morning, we met and got our assignments for the day.  Most of our “clients” were senior adults who (some of which had been in their homes for 50 years or more) would never have been able to make the move alone.  Each one was so thankful and surprised that people would come from so far (the states) just to help them move.  It was a true ministry on the most personal level.

Although there are many details I am leaving out like the weather, some of the specifics of those that we moved (a couple were genuine “hoarders”), and the other little stories that make every trip unique…I did want to share a couple of rather benign events that spoke to me.

Since we stayed in a condo, most mornings we ate breakfast there.  However, on the two construction mornings we ate at a little restaurant called “Eggsquis” next to the Axe21 Magog church.  One of the unique things about Quebec is that it is purposely and distinctly French…unlike much of the rest of Canada.  Therefore, sometimes it is tricky to come across a vendor/waitress or the like that speaks fluent English.  When we arrived at Eggsquis on Monday, our group was first met by a French welcome, but were pleased when we got Julie as our waitress because she was very fluent in English with very little accent.  She was a young woman probably in her mid-twenties and was very attentive and nice asking questions about where we were from and the like.  When we returned on Thursday, another waitress greeted us in French but was a little caught off guard when we tried to communicate in English.  Then, here came Julie to the rescue.  Since it is my custom, and that of our group, to pray openly over any meal, I decided to try something I probably do all too rarely.  I asked Julie if we could pray for her and if there was something specific we could pray about.  She was obviously surprised and moved and shared that she was expecting a child after the first of the year.  Just doing the math, I’m assuming that was relatively new news for her.  As she went about her work, we thanked God for our food and prayed for Julie.

A second event had to do with one of our hosts, Simon.  Simon and Jessie are a young couple in the Axe 21 church who live in Magog and are helping with the new church plant there.  They were our main contact for the week.  Simon has a background in construction and helps with projects in the theater several times a week as time allows.  Although Simon grew up in a “religious home” as he puts it, he did not come to a relationship with Jesus until his early 20’s.  To help with Axe 21, Simon gave up a good full-time job in construction to move to Magog and took a part-time position in an ice cream/gelato shop so he would have the freedom to help build the church…both physically and spiritually.  Simon’s testimony is extremely powerful as he and I had a couple of opportunities to talk with one another over the week.  One of his struggles was occasionally doubting the decision to leave behind financial security in order to help with the church.  He also was disappointed that he had to work at the gelato shop many of the nights we were there.  As he shared with me one of the days, it was his hope that God might use him to reach his bosses at the shop.  To some extent, I believe Simon felt this would be a type of confirmation that he was still doing God’s will.  Thursday night, we had something of a going-away fellowship with all the groups at Simon and Jessie’s house (a home they shared with another great young couple, Sebastien and Kim)…but Simon had to work.  He had shared with me at lunch how obviously saddened he was by this.  So, we decided to stop by and see him after the cookout…after all, everyone needs a little dessert after a cookout.  As we ate our tasty treats and said our goodbyes, Simon shared that it was a “good night at work.”  Unfortunately, I never got to hear why it was good night.  So I friended him and everyone else we met new on the trip and asked him why it was a good night.  Here is what he shared:

I was a bit bumed out because I was working every night and I really wanted to hang out with everybody and guet to know all of you and your story. So I had to remind my self that God is in control and that He want me to be at the ice cream store. So I prayed and ask that He could use me. I prayed for my bosses and my coworkers. So, for a good 45 min, there were no customers at all and my bosses were gone for souper/dinner smile emoticon and I was alone with my coworker ( Marjolie) and she started asking me questions on what did I belive in, what's the difference between our beliefs and the catholique's beliefs, why do I don't doubt that God exist, what does it mean to loose your life for Jesus, what's the gospel,.... for a good 45 minutes. And, no offence, but this was way better than spending time with all of you (smile emoticon) you all know Jesus but she didn't. That made my week and btw, thanks to all of you for coming to see me at the ice cream store because I guess that this is probably why she started to have questions (smile emoticon)  *Please excuse any misspelled words or grammar issues, Simon primarily speaks French and was probably texting as fast as he could.

I guess my point in sharing these two stories is that sometimes we think that God only works in the BIG things like the construction or the moving day.  However, the first step in being used is not major sacrifice, but willingness.  Julie is now a prospect for the Axe 21 church and has said she will be attending.  I don’t know any more about her background or possible future, but this is a start.  And, it is all because of a simple question, "How can I pray for you?"  Simon was able to share with Marjolie just because we came in to see him.  Marjolie asked questions about why we were there and who we were and that opened the door.  I love Simon's statement that sharing Jesus was way better than spending time with us.  He was able to do this just because we showed up.

Some of us, including me, need to just start with a willing spirit to do something, even just showing up, for God and let Him turn it into something big.




March 23, 2015, 12:44 PM

Passion Week Revisited

Have you ever seen the movie, The Holiday, with Kate Winslet, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law.  I'll admit that it is kind of a chick-flick (actually very much of a chick-flick), and just the admission that I'm aware of the movie might tell you a little of how I have evolved over the years.  In the movie, Camerson Diaz's character is a pretty calloused individual who supposedly hasn't cried since her parents divorced when she was a teen.  The fact that she "cannot cry" is actually a subplot of the movie and her relationship that develops with Jude Law. Without getting into all the details of the movie, I can honestly say, that on this topic, I can relate.

As I look back over my lifetime, there are very few events that have truly moved me to tears.  My mother tells the story of when I was a young child, say 7 or 8, I would laugh or wouldn't cry when I would get spanked.  Yes, I got spanked as a child...it didn't kill me and I don't hate my parents because of it.  It's biblical, get over it.  Anyway, she once asked the doctor if maybe there way something wrong with me. Well, check this 'cause you'll never hear this now days:  He told her to "spank me until I cried."  In spite of this experience, I'm was still a pretty tough nut to crack in the tears department.  This began to change most drastically when my first daughter was born.  When we got her home and I was holding her, I cried like a baby.  When I hear my second daughter sing, I get choked up.  I may be losing testoterone or something, but now it may flow just watching a commercial.  But, I am still pretty calloused myself, and apart from my family, little moves me greatly.  Except for this one time and this one thing...

Some time ago, Mel Gibson made a movie called The Passion of the Christ.  Many people critiqued it because it was too gruesome and brutal and claimed Gibson just made it for shock factor.  Regardless of the reasons he made and regardless of who he is and his own shortcomings, the movie was surprisingly accurate as for following the biblical description of the passion week.  Kim and I saw the movie together and were actually pretty close to the front of the theater when we saw it.  It was overly realistic, gory, and brutal and it broke me to the core.  The packed theater was silent and there was little discussion afterwards.  This was the first time I had a pretty clear picture of what Jesus the Messiah suffered to buy my salvation.  I've heard the cat of 9 tails described before, or the cross and how Jesus had to push up on the nail in his feet just to take a breath...but seeing it played out in front of me in this manner was quite a bit to take.  This made it much more real.

And, here is the kicker...IT WAS REAL!!!  Maybe it wasn't exactly as it was portrayed on the screen.  Maybe it was worse.  But there is no mistaking the biblical fact that Jesus suffered tremendously in those final days and hours, and not just physically.  He was forsaken by His Father, betrayed by His friends, and denied by His closest disciples...ALL so that we might have a relationship ourselves with the Holy God of the Universe. This thought moves me.  I cry.  He didn't deserve death or abuse.  He was perfect, holy.  I am not.

The cross changes things.  It changed me.  When we learn to view the world through the eyes of the passion of Christ, our worldview is completely different.  Do you see that person on the other side of the church as someone for whom Jesus suffered these things?  How about your bank teller?  Your waitress?  Your pastor?  Your spouse?  Sacrificial love (agapao love) is what Jesus showed us as the perfect example. I am moved when I think about it.  But am I changed?  Am I moved to action?  Does my own heart have the love for others that it takes to do whatever is necessary so that even one person can have a closer relationship with Holy God of the Universe?  I don't think so.  I am still too calloused.  The Passion of Christ deserves more from His people.  It is my hope that as I draw closer to God, it will be easier for me to broken by compassion to do those things that might be worthy of His sacrifice.

 



Comments

06-20-2015 at 5:51 AM
larry adkins
amen brother, coming from an old marine,i know exactly where you're coming from. ain't GOD good.he knows that those vases on the mantle are only good to look at but if he turns us into old buckets,then he can use us to water his roses. GOD bless from east texas
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January 12, 2015, 11:00 AM

15 Trends for Churches in 2015

I just recently read the 2 articles by Dr. Thom Rainer called "Fifteen Trends for Churches for 2015."  Although I'm not sure I agree with every prediction or trend Rainer sees (all demographics and churches are different), I know from his background that he has done the research and checked the numbers and has a record on being pretty accurate on such things.

I have condensed these two articles into one with a link below.  Feel free to read and if you wish post your thoughts on some of his assertions by way of the comments which I have enabled for this blog.

15 Trends for Churches in 2015

I hope to provide my own comments on each possible trend in the upcoming days.



Comments

01-19-2015 at 3:16 PM
Bob Johnson
Without getting into a long dissertation discussing each point, let me just say that I do see most of these trends coming to pass. However, I believe some of them are subject to the geographic and demographic characteristics of a given area. For instance, in our association, I see the rise of what I call the "solid" smaller church. There are various levels of viability, and "large" does not necessarily mean effective and healthy and #9 doesn't really apply to our NABA area.

And although the other trends like small groups and Sunday evenings may seem like a bad thing on the surface, they could be the very change that helps some of our church do fewer things at a much higher level. My point is...not every church is the same, not every "mission field" is the same, therefore not every church ministry would or should look the same.
01-13-2015 at 4:19 PM
Alan Brown
I tend to agree that some of these changes are coming faster than we would like to admit. Smaller churches are having a much harder time in attracting new members. I do think some of the trends are good and might help the local church to be more effective and better at demonstrating the gospel. Just my thoughts.
01-13-2015 at 11:42 AM
Bob Johnson
This is a test comment for me to see how they will appear in the blog.
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