Friday, May 30, 2008

Better Get a Refund on that Crystal Ball

My father was livid; my sister wept distraught tears.

The preschool teacher at PALS, the little preschool operated by a Church of Christ church on the east side of Jonesboro, Arkansas, felt the need to inform Traci that her only son—my father's only grandchild—was "slow." I'm sure that the preschool teacher was trying to break the news to Traci gently, to prepare her for a couple of decades of struggling with a child who would never perform well in school, never be able to pursue a distinguished career, never know the satisfaction of achievement.

Dad, as I recall, threatened to take down that preschool with his own hands, brick-by-Campbellite-brick.

As Paul Harvey would say, here's the rest of the story.

Tomorrow morning, my nephew Alex Bryant Smith will graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. From there he'll be heading to Fort Sill in Lawton, OK, for orientation in Field Artillery. Then he'll be posted in Germany, although he'll spend most of his time either in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Alex went to West Point after September 11—after we went to war. He knew what he was doing. He's had acquaintances who died and one good friend who lost a leg in Iraq. But he believes in our country and in our mission. He's determined to serve. I'm just as proud of him as I can be.

In other family news, today is my sixteenth wedding anniversary. Man, did I marry above myself! This morning in my prayer time I just thanked God that He sent Tracy my way and that He has prevented me from messing it up for sixteen whole years. What a blessing Tracy is! So, I'm out-of-town with her today and won't be responding to comments. May God bless you all with an enduring love like this!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Southern Baptist Texan Editorial on Regenerate Church Membership

I really hate to post again so soon and push other posts down the totem pole, but Gary Ledbetter's latest editorial is just that good. Gary gets it. I'm so thankful to see a healthy interest in regenerate church membership from laypeople, pastors, and denominational staffs alike.

If Moderationists Really Cared about Drunkenness...

The ongoing discussion over alcohol at SBC Today really has legs. The comment count is at 117 and rising. I've contributed a few to that number. One of the comments that I made resonates strongly enough with me that I've decided to make it a post all unto itself, slightly modified and expanded. I've entitled it, "If Moderationists Really Cared about Drunkenness."

Make no mistake about it: Moderate consumption really equals moderate drunkenness. How drunk can I get before I’m “drunk”—what BAC? There’s a conversation that no advocate of “moderation” wishes to engage. If we were encountering people sincerely desirous to avoid intoxication, we would see:

  1. A vigorous discussion ongoing AMONG moderationists as to where sinful drunkenness beings. But not only is that conversation not vigorous, it is nonexistent.
  2. An extolling of the technology now in place to brew beverage alcohol that is less potent, the better to lessen the risk of drunkenness for those choosing to imbibe in moderation. But that conversation also is nonexistent.
  3. Serious preaching against drunkenness from moderationist pulpits. Sadly, neither moderationists nor abstentionists are preaching against drunkenness, which causes me to question the sincerity of both sides. I once put up a post asking about how much preaching my readers have heard against drunkenness in SBC churches. The comments were destroyed when I accidentally deleted my blog, but I can tell you that I heard a lot of crickets. This is the great debate where we roar on the blogs what we dare not squeak in our sanctuaries. I believe a greater responsibility falls upon those who proclaim the virtues of moderation. Bringing people to alcohol without giving frequent warning as to the dangers of drunkenness is like giving a four-year-old a Sigsauer without showing him how to set the safety. The absence of such preaching suggests that moderationists (among many of us) aren't very interested in combatting drunkenness.
  4. An effort to differentiate among alcoholic beverages based upon their alcoholic content. Several centuries after the last words of the Bible were penned, mankind learned how to distill alcoholic beverages to make them more effective at making people drunk. Like Pit Bulls bred and trained to maim, these are beverages chemically altered very carefully to make them make people drunker quicker. If moderationists were genuinely serious about avoiding drunkenness, they would be telling people not to drink whiskey or margaritas or mojitos or rum or any other distilled liquor. After all, all of these drinks are foreign to the Bible, are much more alcoholically potent than even modern undiluted wine, and start to cause profound drunkenness right off the bat. Instead of hearing this from moderationists, we hear about how their deacons are making margaritas.

I don’t doubt that our moderationist brethren are opposed to the idea of someone drinking until transformed into a sorry heap of puking flesh perched on a toilet lid somewhere, but I see no evidence of any serious opposition to a little buzz now and then—at least not any opposition serious enough to give rise to any careful thought or action.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Meaning of Church Membership

K. Owen White's distinguished ministry included a fruitful pastorate at First Baptist Church of Houston, TX, and an influential presidency over the Southern Baptist Convention in 1964, in the midst of the Elliott Controversy that foreshadowed the Conservative Resurgence. White's sermon "Death in the Pot" was the most prominent whistle blowing to warn the convention of the liberal contents of Elliott's The Message of Genesis. White's sermon "The Meaning of Church Membership" came out a full decade before "Death in the Pot." Styles of preaching were a bit different back then, but I find it interesting to see way back in the early 1950s a concern about weakening concepts of church membership.

I offer for your edification K. Owen White's sermon, "The Meaning of Church Membership."

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

–Matthew 16:18-19

Some months ago I read in a newspaper the account of the death of a prominent citizen. The column beneath his picture was three or four inches in length and listed the organizations to which he belonged, the positions which he had filled, and the honors which had been bestowed upon him. There was one notable exception. In all that was said of him, there was not a word about his church! Something is tragically wrong when a man leaves the Lord and the church out of his life or when the members of his family regard his church membership as incidental and secondary to his other affiliations.

Christ said nothing at all about lodges, clubs, and associations; but he did say, "I will build my church." Granted that there are various organizations which have commendable features and engage in worth-while activities. But at the best they are only human organizations, which Christ's church is a divine institution.

Gates of hell can never

'Gainst that church prevail;

We have Christ's own promise,

And that cannot fail.

Sabine Baring-Gould

There is no substitute for membership in a New Testament church. Someone may ask, What is a New Testament church? The answer is that it is one which faithfully follows the pattern laid down in God's Word. It may be large or small, it may be rich or poor, it may be in our own community or in another land, but if it is patterned after the churches described in the New Testament, it is worthy of recognition as a New Testament church.

Another question may logically follow: What is the meaning of church membership? And that is precisely the question we want to consider. To answer it, we must go to the only source of authority we know—the new Testament itself. The Four Gospels tell us what "Jesus began both to do and to teach." Acts records what he continued to do through the leadership of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of his people. The epistles and Revelation give us a clear picture of Christ's plan and purpose for his church.

If anyone should ask whether the church itself, or membership in the church, is important, the reply is that "Christ…loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph. 5;25). he purchased it "with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). He wants it to be "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph. 5:27). "He is the head of the body, the church" (Col 1:18). The church is also referred to as "the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).

The glorious truth which ought to stir the heart of every one of us is that unworthy, sinful men and women like ourselves, having been saved by grace, through faith, are privileged to be members of such a body.

What is the significance of joining the church? Why join anyhow? When we have joined, what does it mean?

A Vital Experience of God's Grace

Membership in a New Testament church presupposes a new birth—a spiritual birth. A church is not just a group of people who are congenial. It is a body of believers. Though they may differ in many respects, the one thing which they must hold in common is a personal faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour.

The one essential prerequisite for membership in the church is regeneration. "Regeneration is the act of God in which he renews in us the image of God." No unsaved person ought to seek membership in the church. No church should knowingly receive an unsaved person into its membership. Salvation and church membership are not synonymous. Salvation is the gift of God. Church membership is a matter of obedience and loyalty upon the part of one already saved by grace.

While pastor in Washington, D.C., I received this letter from a young woman: "Last night I heard your service over the radio. I have been a member of another faith since I was a little child but I know that I am not saved. I want to be a Christian, and I wish you would come and show me how." A visit to her home found her eager and anxious to know how to become a Christian. She gladly accepted the Lord and within a few days came forward in the church when the appeal was made and followed the Lord in baptism.

For years this woman had been a church member but not a Christian. She marveled at the truth that all she needed to do was to trust in the Lord.

Belonging to a New Testament church means, first of all, that we belong to Jesus. We are not our own; we are bought with a price. Nothing can be more important than to begin aright. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13).

An Open Profession of Faith in Christ

As a lad I did not have the privilege of attending or belonging to a church. We lived so far back "in the sticks" that there were no churches within many miles of us. It would have meant much to me at the time I made a profession of faith if I could have followed it up with a public profession before a whole congregation of people. I was sixteen years of age before I had the privilege of belonging to a church with a regular schedule of activities. I was nineteen years old when the study of the New Testament in a nondenominational school made a Baptist out of me!

The book of Acts indicates that the normal procedure is for new converts—young Christians—to join the church immediately. The response to the gospel message and appeal on the day of Pentecost was marvelous. "And the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41). The work went on and the response to the appeal continued. "And the Lord added to their number [the church] day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47 RSV).

Church membership provides an opportunity for an open, public profession of faith in Christ, who has clearly said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Matt 10:32). But have not some of the Lord's people forgotten that this public confession of Christ should be continuous? It begins when a man joins the church, but it ought to continue to the end of his life. Paul calls attention to the example of our Lord who "witnessed a good confession" (1 Tim. 6:13) before Pontius Pilate. What sort of confession are we witnessing day by day? Having joined the church, have we neglected and forgotten it?

Can you think of any finer way that a Christian can give a clear witness to his faith than by identifying himself openly with a church, becoming a part of that church, and investing everything possible in the life of that church?

Obedience to His Clear Commands

A New Testament Baptist church has been defined as a body of baptized believers, equal in rank and privilege, banded together for fellowship and service, administering its own affairs under the lordship of Christ. It is important to remember that all of our work is under his lordship. Someone has said: 'Christ must be Lord of all if he is to be Lord at all."

If I have trusted Jesus as Savior as professed my faith in him before others, I have thereby said to him and to them that I belong to Christ. Therefore I am under solemn obligation to seek and to do his will.

During the Napoleonic wars when the armies of France were deep in Russian territory, a group of French soldiers captured a Russian gunner known as One-eared Michael. That night when sheltering in the old barn and blacksmith shop, one of the soldiers heated up the forge and fashioned a branding iron with the letter N. Thinking to have some fun with their prisoner who had refused to give them any information concerning his friends, they heated the iron red-hot. Opening the fingers of their prisoner's left hand, they pressed the searing iron into the palm of his hand and said to him gleefully, "Now you belong to Napoleon."

Seizing an ax which lay before him, with one swift blow the gunner severed his hand from his arm and drawing himself up proudly said, "Take what belongs to your emperor. As for me, I belong wholly and absolutely to the Czar."

Oh, let it be remembered by every Christian that by right of redemption he belongs wholly and absolutely to the Lord Jesus Christ! Every wish of his divine Lord becomes an absolute command for him.

What are Jesus' commands to his people? To his churches he has given two ordinances. Both testify of him. Both of them set before us in vivid imagery the facts of the gospel. He expects us to remember and to observe them, to cherish them in their original form and meaning, and to maintain them as memorials to him.

What a glorious experience it is for the one who has just been saved to follow his Lord into the waters of baptism, to hear the words "buried with him…risen with him," and to know that he has taken the first step of obedience to his new-found Lord! Baptism is for believers only. Faith is the way of entrance into God's kingdom, and baptism upon a profession of such faith is the way of entrance into the church.

Yet this is only the beginning. When one has come into the church, the candle of testimony has been lighted; but it must be burned down to the socket.

Baptism is the initial ordinance; but there is given to us another, the continuing ordinance, the Lord's Supper. Lest our hearts should grow cold, lest we should forget the price of our redemption, we are commanded by our Lord to assemble as oft as we will to share in a simple yet glorious memorial to him.

Another command is given to us which is overlooked by many of his people. It is: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" (Heb. 10:25). There are too many empty seats, too many vacant pews!

An empty seat (unless it is empty for some good reason) means an added wound in the heart of Christ. It means a broken appointment. It means a vote against the church. It means victory for Satan and the forces of evil. It means that temporarily at least the lamp of some member's testimony has flickered. It means that the sense of personal responsibility has died out.

Yes, church membership means obedience to his commands. Can we, dare we forget his command to witness for him? To his own people, to the members of the churches, he is continually saying, "Ye shall be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8).

The witness which you and I give is the sum total of the influence of our whole lives.

Fellowship with His People

Membership in the church means fellowship with other Christians. In Jerusalem, after Pentecost, believers by the thousands identified themselves with the church. It was a personal relationship. It was a continuing relationship, for "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer" (Acts 2:42).

Let us break that statement down for a moment and look at it. "They continued steadfastly." Some folks transfer their membership from one church to another and that is all. Their church letter is in the file. The name is on the roll. The individual goes no further and grows no more spiritually.

Steadfastness is one of the characteristics of a growing Christian. Physical growth depends upon nourishing food and regular exercise; so does spiritual growth. Those early Christians continued "in the apostles' doctrine." Their souls were nourished, their hearts were warmed, their faith was strengthened, their lives were enriched by constant contact with the gospel message. Christians need to know the outstanding doctrines of their faith, but these doctrines must be related to life in a practical way.

The early Christians continued in the apostles' fellowship. That is simply another way of saying that they were with them as frequently and continuously as possible. They went to church.

In a former pastorate I was visiting in a little grocery store across the town from our church. One of our members owned the store. As we talked, a young woman came in. The owner said, "Here is one of your members, Dr. White, but I don't know whether you have met her."

I had not and I knew it; so I said, "How long has it been since you were in our church?"

She furrowed her brow and said slowly: "Well, let's see, I was married five years ago in July. I don't think I have been there since I was married."

Yet she professes to love the Lord and holds membership in the church and is well able to come! Somehow fellowship has been broken.

Those early Christians continued in "breaking of bread, and in prayers." If the reference to breaking of bread refers to the Lord's Supper, then it ought to smite the conscience of some who never join with their fellow believers at the Lord's table. If it refers to a wholesome friendship which brought them close together in one another's homes, then it is a practice that might well be encouraged.

Those early Christians continued in prayer. Fellowship finds its greatest heights in fervent, united prayer. How many real prayer meetings do we have? What percentage of our people attend the midweek service? How many really know how to pray?

What a thrilling thing it is to read again the record of the victories won by prayer in the early days. "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication…And they continued steadfastly…in prayer…Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer…and when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord…And when they had prayed, the place was shaken."

How well do I remember an occasion when revival services were being held and day after day passed by with no professions of faith. Thursday evening of the first week arrived, and after the service the pastor's heart was so heavy that he called his Sunday school superintendent.

In the shadows of the front porch they sat for a few moments talking and then went into the darkened front room of the pastorium and knelt together and prayed.

The next morning two high school girls made professions of faith, and at the evening service almost a dozen came on profession of faith. Forty-three people were baptized before the meeting was over. Was it because two men agonized in prayer that night until long past midnight?

Church membership involves fellowship with other Christians. It means "continuing steadfastly." It means going to church when it is hot and going to church when it is cold. It means going when it rains and going when it snows, when the road are good and when they are bad. It means going to church when one feels like it and when one does not feel like it. That's when he needs it most! Without the fellowship of other Christians, his heart may grow cold and careless.

Faithful, Consistent Service for Christ

There is something seriously wrong with church membership that does not result in supreme loyalty to Christ and express itself in fruitful, faithful service.

The churches of the New Testament are described as colonies of heaven in a world of sin. People who associate with Christians ought to be conscious of their presence. Christians ought to be different. Paul challenges Christ's followers to be "blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world" (Phil 2:14 RSV).

Through all the centuries the call of Christ to his people has rung out clearly: "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing" (2 Cor. 6:17).

A bewildered, confused, materialistic world is skeptical of spiritual realities and needs desperately the witness of clean-cut Christian lives which are different. It demands something tangible, something it can see and feel!

"No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier" (2 Tim. 2:4). Christians lose spiritual power and energy, churches bog down, and the world suffers because of worldly encumbrances and entanglements.

Beer, cocktails, tobacco, gambling, Sunday sports, roadhouses, dance halls, and other worldly amusements find no place in the life program of the one who wholeheartedly desires to please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

High are the privileges but great are the responsibilities of church membership! Church membership involves discipleship in its highest form. It says to us that "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:12-14).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

On Creation Care

The exegetical foundation for proxy baptism of the dead is stronger than the exegetical foundation for "creation care" as presently defined.

  1. Both concepts rise and fall on the interpretation of a single statement. The modern environmental concept of "creation care" depends entirely upon a particular interpretation of Genesis 1:26-28. Although the Bible makes abundant mention of God's status vis-à-vis His creation—that He created it, rules over it, and retains ownership of it—this Genesis passage is the only suggestion in the Bible, indirect as it is, that man is accountable to God for the climatic health of the earth. The notion of proxy baptism of the dead depends entirely upon a particular interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:29. This verse, unlike the Genesis passage, appears in a New Testament epistle to a church. All other things being equal, drawing exegetical support from a New Testament passage is generally a stronger position than drawing exegetical support from an Old Testament passage, because the questions regarding how the concept might have been affected by the Fall or the Gospel are not in play with regard to a passage in a New Testament epistle.
  2. Major alternative interpretations of Genesis 1:26-28 are available, unlike 1 Corinthians 15:29. Many exegetes will hazard some sort of guess, but when you get down to brass tacks, most will concede that we have no idea what 1 Corinthians 15:29 is talking about. On the other hand, a long and distinguished history exists of reading Genesis 1:26-28 as a passage subjecting the earth to human domination, to be employed for the benefit of man.
  3. Other passages in the Bible seem specifically to contradict the notion that human activity changes the climate. Ecclesiastes 1 specifically mentions several climatological phenomena as items unaffected by the "vanity" of human existence, pointedly asserting the indefinite unfazed existence of the earth in the face of human endeavors. In 1 Kings 17-18, Matthew 8:23-27, and James 5:17-18, the ability to impact the weather receives specific attention as a demonstration of the power of God in contrast to the power of mere mortal activity. Apocalyptic passages in both Old and New Testaments seem to teach pretty clearly that climactic climatic cataclysm is God's ultimate intention for the earth rather than a human-induced phenomenon that contravenes His design. On the other hand, although strong exegetical evidence refutes the notion of post-mortem evangelism or conversion, no other passage of scripture anywhere even tangentially addresses the idea of proxy baptism for the dead either to support it or to refute it.

Neither case is strong exegetically. Neither case convinces me exegetically. But the exegetical basis for the idea that I ought to be baptized in behalf of my great-grandfather, weak as it is, is stronger than the exegetical evidence that I ought to be concerned about monitoring my carbon footprint.

One might even say that every time a Southern Baptist argues that pollution is unbiblical, that person has rejected the sufficiency of Scripture and has become a closet Roman Catholic. And every time that person uses religious rationales to advocate governmental imposition of restrictions upon what I can drive, burn, cultivate, manufacture, mine, or pump from the earth, that person has become a closet Pharisee, loving their own rules more than Scripture itself.

Of course, to make such a public statement would be to cast grave aspersions upon those who see things differently and to throw down the gauntlet and call for heated, public, high-stakes debate about the idea, and I do not wish to go quite so far. Rather, I believe that our greener brethren are attempting to address questions arising out of human technological advancement, and are attempting to do so within the framework of a generally biblical worldview. We might be able to come to differing conclusions about environmental matters without ratcheting the level of rhetoric up quite so high. At least that would be my hope.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blog Fatigue

This isn't 2006.

As we did in Greensboro, Southern Baptists find before them a SBC presidential election spread to the four winds. Some of the candidates are serious contenders, while others are also-rans. The chance of a second-ballot election for president is high. Dissident support is aligning behind Avery Willis, with some portion going to Les Puryear. Conservative support is falling behind Frank Cox and Johnny Hunt. I have not yet made my selection.

I have heard people draw comparisons to 2006, the last contested election, suggesting that the outcome in 2006 offers some prediction of the outcome this year—the first-ballot victory of an unexpected candidate. Certainly there are some parallels between 2006 and 2008, but I believe that there are more important differences.

Primary among them is the blog fatigue that has gradually spread across the Internet. WIthout authoring a history of the blogging dropouts of the past two years, I'll direct your attention to the difference in tone on blogs this year. In 2006 Johnny Hunt was the focus of heated blogging conversation. This year the same candidate has experienced hardly any criticism at all online. In 2006 Ronnie Floyd was vivisected by various blogs in the months leading up to the election. Has any candidate experienced anything similar this year? Not that I can tell. Apparently the worst that any candidate has endured has been my premature outing of Les Puryear's candidacy.

It isn't that the blogosphere is fawning over the presidential candidates with glowing praise. The evidence suggests rather that Southern Baptist bloggers and blog readers just aren't that interested in the presidential election. The prominent group-blog SBC Today has conducted interviews of all of the announced presidential candidates to date. The latest, of candidate Les Puryear, has generated only twenty-nine comments, only three of which mention candidate Puryear at all. An interview with candidate Avery Willis resulted in the revelation that Willis's daughter is the ordained co-pastor of a church in Kansas City, yet even that stunning bit of news generated a paltry eighteen comments. The interview with Johnny Hunt elicited nine comments. Bill Wagner was able to provoke forty-two comments by insulting SBC Calvinists. Leading the pack was the Frank Cox interview, where the pseudonymous "Bill Kiffin" took it upon himself to denigrate in his comments all of those with D.Min degrees or with degrees from Luther Rice.

Perhaps the national presidential election is sucking some of the oxygen out of SBC presidential politics. I think that the departure from blogging of some voices and the maturation of others has led to greater civility in the medium. The impending failure of some of the more extreme leftward campaigns for SBC change has alternately provoked spikes in blogging ferocity and taken the wind out of more than a few sails. Furthermore, blogging is an intense business. It wears me out. And the longer I do it, the less it takes to wear me out. I blog less frequently, and when I do blog, I blog with less intensity.

I predict that things will pick up between now and the Convention—I expect at least two major controversies between now and June 10—but any issues that arise between now and Indianapolis will serve only to push the presidential election even further into the background.

So, it isn't 2006. History is ultimately linear rather than cyclical, even if the past is sometimes a clue to the future. I am confident that the author of history's end can control it all even throughout our fits of passion and apathy. It will be interesting to see how we choose to attempt to follow Him this year.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Book for Your Consideration

I hear good things about Sam Schlorff's recent work entitled Missiological Models in Ministry to Muslims. I plan to obtain a copy for review and for my own edification. I also recommend the book to my readership.

It isn't exactly on Amazon, but you can find ordering information here. A review of the book in the January 2008 volume of the journal Missiology will probably pique your interest, if you have a copy handy to you. The book itself is under $20 plus S&H. I'll host a conversation after I've read it, so if you read it too, we'll all have an informed dialogue.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Getting to Know Dr. Frank Cox

I have not yet decided how I will cast my presidential ballot in Indianapolis. Indeed, I'm not yet certain that the field is completely set for me to know what all of my options are. At this point, my deliberations are between voting for Dr. Frank Cox and voting for Dr. Johnny Hunt.

It would really help to be able to get to know these men better.

If you live within driving distance of Fort Worth, TX, then you are about to have that opportunity with regard to one of your voting options: Dr. Frank Cox. Birchman Baptist Church will host a reception with Dr. Cox on Thursday, May 29, 11:00 AM.

I hear a lot of great things about Dr. Cox, and I look forward to meeting him face-to-face on that day. It would be great to see you there, too. Who knows? Maybe things will wrap up just in time for me to visit Papasitos for lunch!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Difficult Topic Deftly Addressed

The Dallas Morning News is providing online a video clip of Dr. Jack Graham addressing Prestonwood Baptist Church last night. Earlier this week a member of Prestonwood's pastoral staff was arrested for online solicitation of sex with what he believed to be a thirteen-year-old girl. A moment like that will test all of your gifts as a pastor. I appreciate that Pastor Graham dealt directly with the issues, promised that the church would take responsibility for all of its obligations in the ongoing investigation, announced the immediate termination ("resignation"...yeah, right) of the offender, acknowledged the negative effect this sort of thing has upon the trust that people invest in their pastors, and pointed the congregation toward a positive future that will prevail against the gates of Hell.

Go look carefully at the video. May it never be that you have to give such an address to your church, but if you should, careful analysis of this statement would be a good bit of preparation.

I think we might all pray for the folks at Prestonwood, too.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

About the Association of Convictional Baptists

With the launch of the Resolution on Regenerate Church Membership came also the launch of a new website entitled Association of Convictional Baptists. Some speculation has ensued regarding who this group might be, what might be the significance of the name, and what is the nature of the group's beliefs. Consider this post the answer to those questions, and perhaps to some others as well.

Who Is the Association of Convictional Baptists? At the moment, Bart Barber. That's right—I reserved the domain name, built the site, and threw open its doors solely as an individual project. I hope that it will grow beyond this weak and meager beginning, but at the moment the membership list is pretty small.

What is the raison d'être for the Association of Convictional Baptists? The front page of the site currently contains (my apologies if you come to this post in the future and find other content there) the text of the Fifth-Century Initiative, a document that I wrote last year. Many other people have looked at that document and have generally affirmed its tenets. I believe that the principles articulated there represent a needed and important course of renewal for Southern Baptists.

I gave thought (and even performed some initial work) toward the possibility of developing and hosting a conference built around the Fifth-Century Initiative, but after lengthy and agonizing soul-searching, I decided not to do so. The idea sounded great at first, but the more I pondered it, the further away from it I journeyed. What did I mean to accomplish with the conference? I could never get away from that question. Too many times, I think that conferences become something akin to youth camp for adults—a time of isolated euphoric concentration upon important things. Youth camp is important (God called me to preach at one), but what makes youth camp important is the daily grind of ministry to youth as an influence to help the lessons learned at youth camp to take root when transplanted from the greenhouse into the common soil of everyday life.

Apply that thought analogically to the Fifth-Century Initiative. My passion is for providing day-to-day help for Southern Baptist churches to seek renewal. The best format for such help, I have come to believe, lies in a community rather than a conference. So that's what I hope to build. Someday, perhaps, we will have a conference, if it seems to fulfill some genuine need. But for now, what I hope to do is to make of the site a resource center and community gathering place for people orienteering this elusive pathway toward rediscovering who Christ has called us to be.

Where'd the Name Come From? Well, it's a three-word title. I'll take them in reverse order just to make things more difficult for you!

Baptist: This is an unashamedly Baptist site, not out of pridefulness but out of a sincere belief that the renewal that we need lies within the historic tenets of Baptist belief. The historic tenets I have in mind you'll find articulated in the Fifth-Century Initiative document.

Convictional: The ACB seeks to return us all to a convictional understanding of what it means to be a Baptist.

It is a movement pitted against the concept of congenital Baptists. Parentage does not a true Baptist make. There is no such thing as a blue-blooded Baptist. The only blood that matters was shed on Calvary. The congenital Baptist theory is responsible for at least two ills at lethal work among us. First, it has filled our churches with people who attend and worship where they do solely because of generational inertia. It is possible to be dead-set determined to be a member of a Baptist church, simply because of lineage, without even knowing the theological principles that undergird that august name. Second, and related to the first, it has led to the false notion that the "heirs" of Baptist theology can define it to mean anything (or nothing) at all and that the name must follow them wherever they would wander theologically, since it has been passed down to them as a birthright.

It is a movement pitted against the concept of coincidental Baptists. This movement is not for those who attend the Baptist church in town simply because it has the largest ad in the newspaper or the coolest praise band or the most active youth program. This movement is not for those who are staying with the SBC because they're going whichever way the Annuity Board goes. This movement is not for those whose Baptist beliefs arise out of a paycheck. Those who join a Baptist church merely to see a reduction in seminary tuition costs need not apply (not that there's an application).

Rather, this site is dedicated to the concept of convictional Baptists—a people who share the sincere, educated, and heartfelt conviction that the major distinctives of Baptist belief are found in the New Testament. For me, it is not about the beliefs of my parents, about the wording on a sign in front of our worship auditorium, or the place I just happen to be at this point in my life. I believe that I must be Baptist or be disobedient to Christ. It is a matter of conviction for me.

In saying so, I know that there are a great many in the world who believe (wrongly) that they must be non-Baptist (or at least a whole lot less Baptist than I am) or be disobedient to Christ. Such folk should be thankful that I am a Baptist, for as such I am firmly committed to their freedom to pursue their own convictions. But I am also committed to my freedom to pursue Baptist convictions, including the freedom of Baptists to associate voluntarily with one another around Baptist principles for mutual encouragement and edification. I do not violate the rights of non-Baptists in my desire for the freedom of Baptist institutions to be unashamedly Baptist.

Association: As I said above, the purpose of this site is to provide resources and community for Convictional Baptists laboring within the context of local churches to heed the instruction of Christ in the ministries that He has assigned to us. A history guy like me cannot conceive of any entity existing for the strengthening and fellowship of churches without gravitating to the word Association. The historic function of Baptist Associations has been precisely to provide resources and community encouragement to strengthen churches in their convictions and ministries.

The danger of employing this word, of course, is the fact that some will conjecture that I am attempting to supplant the geographic associations that have played and do play such an important role in Southern Baptist life. Not at all. As we all ought to know, Baptist Associations should be entirely autonomous creatures. They serve as a handmaiden to the churches, not as a spouse. The relationship between church and association is not a monogamous one, for local churches affiliated with local associations are also affiliated with state conventions and the SBC.

I do think that the work that I hope ACB to be doing in the future is work that local associations ought to be doing but sometimes (too often?) are not—the work of churches strengthening one another and giving one another healthy feedback with regard to our theology. But local associations are doing things that I don't think ACB will ever do. They are planting churches, they are helping local Baptist churches to find a common voice within a certain patch of geography. They are hosting training and other conferences at a frequency that no online site could ever accomplish. They are facilitating a level of fellowship among churches that mere electrons can never replicate. It is my prayer (and indeed, one of the planks of the Fifth-Century Initiative) that local associations are here to stay and will only grow stronger in their ministries. May the day come when every local association in the SBC has embraced these biblical keys to renewal. They will be far more effective than this little website will ever be, and on that day the ACB will promptly and gladly lock the doors forever due to lack of interest.

Besides, we all know that one preacher with a computer doth not an Association make. This part of the name is proleptic.

So perhaps any mystery vanishes with this post. Some of my readers will not agree with my goals—already have disagreed with some of them in other contexts. I love you in the Lord; I just don't happen to be building this site with you specifically in mind. But to those of you who feel the tug of the Holy Spirit toward things like Regenerate Church Membership and the other principles articulated in the Fifth-Century Initiative, I pray that together we can see the Head of the Church work great things in our congregations in the coming years.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

On the Virtues of Closed Doors

It's not every day that I quote Amy Grant favorably (please direct your hate mail to...), but one interview she gave contained a real nugget of wisdom, IMHO. Asked about criticism she had received for something she had done (I think it had to do with her crossover project that she released with Peter Cetera), Grant offered a viewpoint of criticism that struck a good balance, I thought, between the foolish refusal to listen to criticism (which can often help us to grow) on the one hand, and the foolish practice of listening to all criticism immediately (which will paralyze us, robbing us of productivity).

It was Grant's analogy that I thought was truly profound. She compared her entertainment career to the painting of a great work of art. An artist, Grant said, can't set up the easel, squeeze out the paints onto the palette, pull out a brush, paint a single stroke, and then step back and ask the world, "What do you think?" before painting stroke two and repeating the request for criticism. No, Grant observed, sometimes you just have to dive into the canvas and paint. Then, later, when the painting is done, that's the time to request and evaluate criticism of the finished project. The painting of the masterpiece rightly takes place behind closed doors, and then its exhibition and evaluation come publicly when it is finished and ready for showing.

There's a good reason for this—every painting is a mess at some point in the process. I love to watch the PBS show "The Joy of Painting" with the late Bob Ross. He was a bit quirky and odd, but I think his show is entertaining. In a mere thirty minutes (minus network time), Ross paints an oil painting from scratch. There's always a point about ten minutes into the show where I find myself staring at the screen and saying out loud to nobody in particular, "Well, he's messed up! He didn't mean to pull that paint all the way over there. That's not going to look good at all."

Of course, when the end of the show comes, the painting always looks precisely as it should. That's why Bill Clinton would make a horrible painter—you can't build masterpieces with daily opinion polling.

Recently I began to work to build support for the Resolution on Regenerate Church Membership. RCM is a principle that matters a great deal to me. Although I am not the author of the resolution's wording, I am thankful to be able to do my part in carrying it forward. Malcolm Yarnell wrote the original draft of this resolution. When he did, he approached several people and asked them to suggest revisions or indicate whether they could support the resolution. This all took place in 2007, quite some time ago. As I began my efforts to bring the resolution forward this year, my first task was to contact all of the people who had already seen and tentatively affirmed the resolution in order to learn whether they were still in support of the resolution and willing to lend their support as the process went forward.

It is a selective culling of this conversation, carefully trimmed to put forward a false impression, that Wade Burleson released in a recent post. Later, Nathan Finn published a post declaring that there are no more secrets in Southern Baptist life.

I am posting today to say that, if there are no more secrets in Southern Baptist life (presuming that the email exchange I initiated qualifies as a "secret"), then we will be much the worse for it. There's a reason why authors don't publish their first drafts. There's a reason why you pastors out there work on your sermons in the privacy of your study before you proclaim them from the pulpit. There's a reason why Christ's own commanded procedure for the most serious bit of business a church might consider—the exclusion of a member by church discipline—is a process that begins very secretively before it becomes a public spectacle down the line.

The reason for all of these things is quite simply that ideas need to mature, facts need to be checked, proposals need to be vetted, and negotiation needs to take place, in the vast majority of cases, before the whole world gets caught up into some public show about something. I'm a big proponent of congregationalism, but the very worst form of congregationalism takes place when somebody stands up in a public meeting and throws upon the floor some question that neither the congregation, the moderator, nor he himself has ever really pondered before. These moments typify the phrase "the pooling of our ignorance." No, I'll take every time the person who has given careful thought to what he wants to do, has sought the advice of others, and has brought to the congregation a thoroughly considered and well-worded motion for the body's perusal.

Secrecy in the wrong places most certainly can be a problem. Other than exceptional cases, the convention and her entities ought not to be able to act in secrecy and ought not to be able to cover up past actions. Here's a brilliant idea: We ought to arrange to have a free and open meeting where all of our decisions are made in full view of the public with all of our churches having an opportunity to participate. People ought to be free to work privately before that meeting to decide what is the best thing to propose, the best way to explain a proposal, or the best person to advocate for one thing or another. But when the hour arrives and the time comes for Southern Baptists to make their final decisions, those decisions ought to take place in an atmosphere of open discussion and free debate. Now THAT would be a system that would combine the strengths of private preparation with the strengths of open discussion and decision-making. We ought to put together a system like that.

Oh wait a minute…that's the system we ALREADY HAVE.

Or at least it is the system we ought to already have. I'm troubled by rumors I heard in this discussion that, unlike at SWBTS, at some of our entities the salaries of entity heads may be a closely guarded secret kept even from trustees. Our public decision-making process and our past actions (such as the setting of salaries) ought to be made in openness and kept freely available to Southern Baptists, while we preserve the freedom of individual Southern Baptists to seek counsel, negotiate with one another, and develop proposals in whatever level of privacy they desire and wish to attempt to have.

As a final note on this topic, allow me to say that the most curious and comical aspect of this entire latest melodrama in Southern Baptist life is the fact that the three principals involved—Tom Ascol, Malcolm Yarnell, and myself—have gotten along so swimmingly well throughout it all. Others suggest that we would have a combined resolution rather than two resolutions if everything had played out on a blog from day one. From my perspective, I say au contraire, the very best and most productive collaborations we ever had have been the ones that have taken place with the greatest level of privacy (secrecy, if you wish). The more people who have been involved, and the more melodrama injected into the process by others, the more elusive has been the challenge of coming to a single unity of thought. In my opinion, Wade and Nathan's advice is precisely the way NOT to get anything productive done in the SBC (OK, Nathan's post wasn't precisely in the way of advice).

I think that I speak for both Malcolm and Tom when I say that both of these resolutions are good resolutions, and that we three are cordially and fraternally committed to seeing something good and productive on the topic of Regenerate Church Membership passed at this year's Annual Meeting. Were there nobody else in the Southern Baptist Convention, the three of us would already have something put together. Of course, if we were the only three people in the SBC, there would be neither any need for such a resolution nor any interest from the world in what we wished to say!

So here's the deal: I have in the past and will in the future continue to work "behind the scenes" any time I have anything that I wish to accomplish in the SBC. If you ever hear me offer a resolution, you can be absolutely certain that I had someone else look at it to see whether there was anything stupid in it before I stand up in front of the Jumbotron and start trying to read it through the five-second delay. I may have had fifty people look at it. I may have had five hundred people look at it. To do otherwise is just foolish, as is the expectation that I would have to CC: the sixteen million Southern Baptists on every email I send out in order not to be secretive.

After all, we don't even know where all of those people are.

Forrest and Preston Pollock Victims of Fatal Plane Crash

Earlier today I submitted a post in which I attempted preemptively to defend Forrest Pollock against the accusations sure to come (they come in connection with every aviation-related incident) that he in some way was responsible or acted negligently as the pilot in the tragic accident that has claimed his life this week as well as that of his thirteen-year-old son. Some, upon reading that post, believed that it was insensitive. I can only conclude that my attempts to defend Pollock I had somehow communicated so poorly that they were read as accusations. It makes me wish that I had taken the step beforehand of having my post vetted behind closed doors.

Nay, nay, a thousand times nay. I am a pilot myself, and although I did not know Forrest Pollock well, I have empathetically grieved over his loss, pondering it every time I have seen my own wife and children this day.

Rather, I just know that the media and the NTSB are going to start trying to assign blame his direction, and I jumped the gun a bit in trying to explain how the NTSB is and to defend Pollock. Probably not helpful at this point. I've taken down the post at the request of others. I ask you to join me in praying for the Pollock family and for his church and his many friends tonight.

Forrest Pollock Missing, Presumed Down in Private Plane

I solicit your prayers this morning for Pastor Forrest Pollock of Bell Shoals Baptist Church. Yesterday morning he and this thirteen-year-old son departed Rutherfordton, NC, in a private plane heading for Texas. The church is providing updates on the situation at this web page.

I hold a private pilot's license, and I can tell you that air travel is generally safe. Rutherfordton County - Marchman Field (KFQD) is a non-controlled airport (i.e., there is no control tower) a few miles east of the Great Smoky Mountains. The Minimum Safe Altitude (MSA) at KFQD is only 2,600 feet (i.e., if you're flying at 2,600 feet above sea level, you're not going to run into any ground-based obstacles.), but within the first half-hour of flight westward, the MSA increases to 7,000 feet with the rapidly rising terrain.

Federal Aviation Regulations require aircraft to be equipped with an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT). Designed to survive and be activated by an impact, an ELT transmits a continuous tone on a predefined frequency to alert rescue personnel to the whereabouts of a downed aircraft. Rescuers believe that they may have received transmissions from Pollock's aircraft. If this is the case, then it is almost a certainty that the aircraft collided with terrain in the Great Smoky Mountains. Many US-based aircraft are presently upgrading from analog COSPAS-SARSAT ELTs to digital ELTs capable of transmitting GPS location data to speed the location of downed aircraft. From the reports so far, it appears that Pollock's aircraft was not yet outfitted with the new equipment. This is not surprising, since satellite monitoring of the old beacons will end next year, and aircraft maintenance shops tend to wind up overbooked during transitions like this one. I mention all of this simply to say that Search-and-Rescue efforts take a while longer when looking in mountainous terrain for the older beacons.

Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) incidents in small aircraft are survivable. Consider the speed difference between smaller planes and passenger jets. I don't know what type of aircraft Pollock owns, but the average small general aviation aircraft flies at cruise speeds slower than 160 MPH. A really fast small GA aircraft will reach speeds close to 200 MPH. Contrast that with the 500-MPH-plus speeds common in passenger jet travel. If Pollock was still climbing, then the airspeed of the craft would have been much slower (just like your car, an airplane goes slower when it is going uphill). So, even if Pollock has crashed, we have reason to hope that both he and his son are still alive and are awaiting rescue. Of course, a 120 MPH collision with a mountain is no small affair, so we have both the necessary hope and the danger to motivate us to pray for Pollock fervently this morning.

I do not know what the weather might have been yesterday morning, but reports indicate that Pollock departed long before sunrise. This is a common practice among pilots of small planes—before sunrise the air is often calm, making for a smoother ride. Mountains are not illuminated at night, although they sometimes are apparent as dark silhouettes against the lights of communities beyond the mountain. It is possible that Pollock encountered some sort of mechanical problem in the mountains, but it is just as possible that he inadvertently flew his aircraft into a peak without ever seeing it (if for some reason he was below the MSA while flying through the area).

All of this I offer just so Southern Baptists, as we await word of Pollock and pray for him and his family, might have a little better understanding of what might or might not be happening and might know a little better how to pray. Specifically, here's what I have prayed for Pollock this morning:

  1. I have prayed asking God to preserve both Forrest and Preston Pollock alive in their aircraft.
  2. I have prayed for God to allow rescuers to receive a clear, strong signal from the aircraft's ELT to allow them to locate the downed aircraft very quickly today.
  3. I have prayed for the wreckage (presuming that the aircraft is down) to be accessible by ground vehicles for rescue personnel.
  4. I have prayed for the Pollocks to be able to stay warm in the mountainous overnights and mornings while they await rescue.
  5. I have prayed for the aircraft, which would have been full of fuel for a flight to Texas, not to have any problems with fire.
  6. I have prayed that any injuries to pilot and passengers would not have prevented them from having enough mobility to seek safety and shelter.
  7. I have prayed that God would give peace and comfort to the Pollocks' family and church family as they await God's deliverance.

Finally, let me say that there is nothing more majestic, nor any terrestrial pursuit that carries the soul closer to heaven, than the view of a starry sky out the windows of a small aircraft. May God be as close to the Pollocks in their hour of distress as he was to them as they were beholding the glories of His creation during climbout from Rutherfordton yesterday morning.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mothers Day

We were married for eleven years without children. Doctor after doctor, test after test, we were never able to determine why. And then, in 2003, God brought Jim into our family. Sarah came in 2006. And now, it's a white Suburban (used) for Tracy for Mothers Day 2008, as we prepare for her big day.

But as our congregation gathers this morning, the words I say and the things I do will be influenced by those eleven years. Mothers Day can be very hard on many women—those who are single, those who are married but childless, those who have lost a child. I want us to have a day that will honor and bless the mothers among us without rubbing salt into anyone's wounds. One way to do that is to emphasize the mother that we all have rather than the mother that only some of us are. Another approach is to make Mothers Day something more like "Women Day." by giving flowers or gifts to all women indiscriminately.

I'm curious to hear from you. What does your church do on Mothers Day? For those of you who fall into the categories that I mentioned above, is Mothers Day hard for you? Do you find any particular practices to be better or worse for churches to follow on Mothers Day?

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Poor in Spirit

I've avoided this for two years.

On my podcast today you can listen to me preach. Never, to my recollection, have I inflicted my preaching upon any Internet listener. I'm a bit reluctant to do so even now, and even as I publish the link, I myself readily acknowledge:

  1. I am not advancing myself as a model preacher. Yes, you preach better than I do (your pastor preaches better than I do). I do hope and pray that I've improved a bit since I began preaching twenty-three years ago as a pimply-faced boy. The Lord and those poor suffering people know that I preached some B...A...D... sermons when I was fifteen. But everyone starts somewhere, and we all only progress so far. I'm still learning to preach, and I would look foolish indeed if I were trying to hold up my own preaching as any sort of model for anyone.
  2. It is quite possible that I messed up the exegesis of this passage horribly and entirely. If I did, I don't know about it (or I would have corrected it, right?), but I'm a lowly Church History major, not a New Testament or a Preaching major. By all means, if I am spreading gross heresy on the Internet, please correct my errors in the comment stream right away and without mercy, so that the truth might be upheld.
  3. My reason for sharing this message (and I might upload some of the later ones, as well), is simply the fact that my recent study of the Beatitudes has been profoundly beneficial to me in my own walk with the Lord. These are simple teachings from Christ that strike right to the heart of what it is to be a disciple. My hope in sharing this sermon on the Internet is precisely the same as my hope in preaching the sermon from the pulpit in the first place—I hope that God might somehow use the interaction with His word, however pitiful it might be, to be of benefit to you, the listener.

So, if this sermon does your heart any good, then praise God. It certainly did my own.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Wearing the Insult as a Blessing

I was born and raised in Craighead County, Arkansas. The origin and naming of the county is an interesting bypath in history.

In 1858 Arkansans elected William Atkinson Jones as their Governor. Jones's later contest with Jeff Davis for a seat in the United States Senate was one of the subplots that made its way into my dissertation a few years ago, and he was a formidable force in Arkansas Democrat politics during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Among Jones's campaign promises was a pledge to create a new county out of Mississippi County in Northeast Arkansas. Jones won, and contrary to the basic rules of secular politics, went about making good on his campaign promises. The sole strident opponent to the creation of the new county was the state senator from Mississippi County, Thomas Craighead. The removal of the land to create the new county would diminish the influence and tax revenue of his Mississippi County constituency, you see.

One day, while Craighead was out on other business, Jones strolled into the Senate chamber and amended the bill to change the name of the county to Craighead County. The Senate adopted the measure in Craighead's absence, and forevermore my home county wears the name of the man most opposed to its existence. Every map, every calling of the roll, and every journey past the county-line marker was designed to be an insult—a reminder to Craighead of the political game that he lost. And now, Craighead County is the dominant county in the region, with its county seat of Jonesboro serving as the economic, cultural, educational, and political hub of that entire congressional district. What others meant as an insult to Thomas Craighead has actually preserved his name in an honored place in local and regional history.

The same thing might be said about the word Baptist. It was birthed as an insult and an instrument of opprobrium. Those who loved biblical truth clung to it in spite of its origins, and God blessed their faithfulness with such blessing that, for a while, it ceased to be employed as a by-word and epithet. Today represents, I suppose, the first time in our history in which "Baptist Identity" has become a slur hurled by people who actually, out of the other side of their mouths, claim to be Baptists themselves. But no matter the slight novelties of the present situation, I count it an honor to stand with Kiffin and Helwys, with Williams and Holmes, with Crosby and Taylor and Barber (hey, I'll have to do some genealogical research there, maybe I have "blue" blood as well!), and to wear proudly the name Baptist, even when it is intended as a matter of mockery and derision.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Baptist Faith & Message and the "Senior Pastor"

I have long avoided the use of the title "Senior Pastor." Indeed, I once wrote a post about why I prefer not to employ that title. The problem is not that the title isn't biblical; the problem is that the title is biblical ("Chief Shepherd") and is reserved for someone else (Jesus) in its biblical use. Yes, it is a personal quirk, and I do have good friends who employ the title. Use of it is no test of friendship or fellowship with me. I just abstain from the use of it myself.

So, I'm glad to note for you that the title "Senior Pastor" appears nowhere within the text of The Baptist Faith & Message. Look for yourself. So, when Wade Burleson says, "I was not personally bothered [in 2000] by the BFM 2000 prohibition on women serving as 'Senior Pastors,' nor am I interested in amending the BFM 2000," he reveals that he needs to read the document more carefully. The BF&M states that the entire pastoral office is limited to men—as I stated before, there is no distinction in the document differentiating "senior" pastors from plain old pastors.

I thought about posting this before, but worried that it would just be another volley in some shooting war over feminist agendas in the SBC. I didn't want to pour gasoline on a fire, but neither did I want to leave a misrepresentation of the BF&M's text uncorrected forever. Hopefully I have waited long enough for the fervor to have waned so that I can just post this factual correction and move on.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Beholder of Our Eyes

Don't tell my wife that I'm blogging. She failed to notice that my laptop was within reach of the bed.

Please understand this first of all: There's nothing seriously wrong with my eyes. I've got a really bad upper respiratory infection (i.e., a cold), that somehow a burst of Rocephin and Penicillin did not conquer. It has somehow crossed over into my left eye, which is pretty angry with the world right now. The ER doc today says it must be something "peculiar" (an unusual bug), that those two antibiotics somehow missed, so he followed up with something that sounded like a ten-sided regular polygon to me: Decadron. That and some Zythromyacin (I swear not to ANY of these spellings) and I'm to see whether I'm not good as new by Monday.

What about Sunday? Well, I do have a five-year-old son whose closet includes a pirate costume. An eye patch, a hook, I could preach on Jonah…anybody got a parrot I can borrow?

Right now the eye is pretty much matted over. So long as I leave my eye that way it doesn't hurt. It's going to get better. I'm happy for that. Right now it is just an inconvenience, thanks to the blessings of modern medicine.

I've been thinking a lot over the past few days about Dr. Al Mohler. I recall two years ago watching him struggle with the bright lights at the pastor's conference, suiting up injured in a way that inspired us all, I'm sure. His painful squints were painful to me—I wanted to run up onto the stage, hold him down, and force some Stevie Wonder glasses upon his face right then and there. His visage was not beautiful to see in his painful condition, but his commitment to the cause of biblical truth was (and that comes from someone who agrees with the position that Dr. Patterson articulated that day). Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, it is in the Beholder of our eyes, who gave them to us that we might use them to His glory, as Dr. Mohler did that day.

Anyway, as I've been Captain Hook for the past few days I've been thinking about him and giving thanks to God for the ways in which He has shepherded Dr. Mohler through difficult times. It keeps my little sick-day in perspective. A good friend who went to the Together for the Gospel conference tells me that Dr. Mohler was there, robust and enthusiastic. Praise the Lord who have given the complete and total healing for which we all prayed! By all accounts, Dr. Mohler is even healthier than he was at the beginning of the year.

Blogover Postponed

Apparently, the Lord had other things in mind. What was once a sinus infection has somehow migrated into my left eye, which has further developed a mild case (I hope) of something called cellulitis, apparently. High fever has accompanied this, and the stuff draining from my eye is, or so I am told, filled with bad bacteria.

Oh yeah, and I look grotesque, too.

So, I remain committed to the Blogover and will accomplish it when I can. Kudos to Colin McGahey, who is hard at work on his today. I can't wait to hear what God does through his efforts.