Author Archives: Anthony Baker

About Anthony Baker

Husband, dad, pastor/preacher/teacher, musician, and Time Magazine's Person of The Year in 2006 (no joke!). Loves coffee (big time), good movies, and sarcastic humor. Currently pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry. Most importantly, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. All glory belongs to Him!

I Am a Soldier. This Is My Creed.

In honor of the home-going of a godly man and combat veteran of the European campaign of WWII, W. L. “Red” Sims, I re-post the following.


Soldier’s Creed

Hearing a soldier in the United States Military recite his particular “Solder’s Creed,” whether it be with the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, or Coast Guard, is something quite stirring.

Probably inspired by the military creeds of this world, an unknown author penned the following for soldiers in God’s Army, the Church: those bought with the blood of Christ, wearing the whole armor of God, and marching onward toward victory with the Sword of the Spirit in their hands.

The sooner we come to the realization that we are most certainly engaged in a spiritual war, the better. May we all be willing to stand unashamed…”and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).

The Christian Soldier’s Creed

I am a soldier in the Army of my God.

The Lord Jesus Christ is my commanding officer.

The Holy Bible is my code of conduct. Faith, prayer, and the Word are my weapons of warfare.

I have been taught by the Holy Spirit, trained by experience, tried by adversity, and tested by fire.

I am a volunteer in this Army, and I am enlisted for eternity.

I will either retire at the Rapture, or die in this Army; but I will not get out, sell out, be talked out, or pushed out.

I am faithful, reliable, capable, and dependable.

If my God needs me, I am there.

If He needs me in the Sunday school to teach the children, work with the youth, help adults, or just sit and learn, I’ll be there.

He can use me because I am there!

I am a soldier.

I am not a baby. I do not need to be pampered, petted, primed up, pumped up, picked up, or pepped up.

I am a soldier.

No one has to call me, remind me, write me, visit me, entice me, or lure me.

I am a soldier.

I am not a wimp.

I am in place saluting my King, obeying His orders, praising His name, and building His kingdom!

No one has to send me flowers, gifts, food, cards, candy, or give me handouts.

I do not need to be cuddled, cradled, cared for, or catered to.

I am committed.

I cannot have my feelings hurt bad enough to turn me around.

I cannot be discouraged enough to turn me aside.

I cannot lose enough to cause me to quit.

If I end up with nothing, I will still come out ahead.

I will win.

My God has, and will continue, to supply all my needs.

I am more than a conqueror.

I will always triumph.

I can do all things through Christ.

Devils cannot defeat me.

People cannot disillusion me.

Weather cannot weary me.

Sickness cannot stop me.

Battles cannot beat me.

Money cannot buy me.

Governments cannot silence me, and hell cannot handle me.

I am a soldier.

Even death cannot destroy me, for when my Commander calls me from this battlefield He will promote me to Captain and then allow me to rule with Him.

I am a soldier in the Army and I’m marching, claiming victory.

I will not give up.

I will not turn around.

I am a solder marching, heaven bound.

(Author Unknown)

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. – 2 Timothy 2:3

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Culture Wars, Struggles and Trials

Thursday Thoughts and Updates

Hello, friends!

You don’t know how much I’ve been wanting to get back to regularly writing on this blog! Just last night, as we were getting in bed, I told my wife, “Do you want to know how busy I’ve been and how little energy I’ve had? I have hardly written anything on my blog in weeks!”

It’s not a “diary” thing, you know. I could get on here and do what I am doing right now, just spill my guts in some random outpouring of emotion. Yet, good blog posts – the kind that attract readers and have a life of their own – must be crafted.

This is just a pitiful attempt to let those who are interested know that I am still alive.

So, how have things been going? Let me hit some highlights.

First, becoming pastor of Bethlehem Baptist has been a thrill, even though leaving all I knew and the family and friends I love was excruciatingly painful. However, as time is passing by, I’m beginning to adjust and grow to love the people who were nothing more than strangers less than a month ago.

Second, I’ve been amazed at how God has put me in a place where I fit so well. One preacher who spoke on the Sunday before I came reminded the congregation that they were calling “the man” for this place. It’s both encouraging and humbling, along with terrifying, at the same time. And, again, as I was talking with my wife about things going on around here, I am continually amazed that people are literally quoting me! They are regularly saying things like, “Like the pastor said,…” That just blows my mind.

Last (there could be a lot more), there is a funeral in town, today. Shortly after my first day on the job, I decided to go meet the local sheriff. Since I had been a chaplain with our Sheriff’s department back in Chattanooga (Hamilton County), I wanted to introduce myself, especially since I was the new pastor in town. So, I got to meet Sheriff Thomas Smith and talked with him for about 1o minutes. What I regret was that I didn’t ask to take the time to pray with/for him before I left – he committed suicide the very next week.

Because Sheriff Smith was so beloved around these parts, even around the whole State of Georgia, thousands of people are going to be flooding the tiny town of Tennille, GA, and the even tinier Methodist Church where the services will be held. Sheriffs from over 100 counties are going to be here, along with dignitaries of all shapes and sizes, including past and present governors. Literally, there is no street into the town that is not blocked, and overflow locations range from larger churches to local school cafeterias. After over 20 years of honest, dedicated service, he will be greatly missed.

But did you catch what I said earlier? He committed suicide. There were a lot of things at play that led to Sheriff Smith taking his own life, even though there is now so much evidence he was greatly loved and appreciated. However, never underestimate the stresses leadership, physical pains, and leadership can bring upon a person, especially those who face evil every day.

Just remember the following verses:

Proverbs 22:1 – A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.
Ecclesiastes 7:1  – A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.

God bless you guys, and I hope to have more time to write very soon.

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Filed under community, current events

What Is the “Doctrine of Separation,” and Is It Biblical?

Yesterday I met a fellow brother in Christ who is not a Baptist like me, but a Methodist pastor. I shared the following with him so that he’d have a better idea who I am and who’d he be having lunch with this afternoon.

If you are unfamiliar with the Doctrine of Separation, I would encourage you to read my treatment of it. Even though the subject of “unity” is important, we need to clarify what we mean by that. And, at the same time, we need to clarify what it means to work together without sacrificing our convictions. But what this article primarily deals with is the need to recognize the importance of working with our fellow believers when possible, understanding that if we are truly followers of Christ, part of the Universal Church, the Body of Christ, then Jesus’ call “that they may be one” is more biblical (duh) than any legalistic doctrine that causes unnecessary  division.


Introduction

During most major holidays, especially Christmas and Thanksgiving, it is customary for families to gather around a table to share a traditional meal. And, when looking around the typical table, it is not uncommon to find relatives, people who would normally never speak to each during the rest of the year, smiling and enjoying themselves. They do this because at the head of the table sits the patriarch or matron of the household, the one who brought them into the world. Out of respect for the parent, even the estranged siblings attempt to fellowship in peace. Sadly, this is not the case with many children of God.

The Doctrine of Separation, based on 2 Corinthians 6:17, has led many to avoid other believers, their brothers and sisters in Christ, despite the expressed desire of their elder Brother (Jesus) that they “be one” (John 17:11). Therefore, this paper will attempt to show that even though it is Christ’s desire for the family of God to be one, the doctrine of separation, as generally applied, is resulting in unnecessary, even destructive division, especially with Baptists. However, even though the author’s intent is to shed light on the divisive tendencies associated with the misuse of a particular teaching, in no way does he intend to promote the darkness-inspired synchronistic tendencies of the modern church; biblical unity within the family of God is the ultimate goal.

Definitions

imageIf one were to ask the average church member to define the Doctrine of Separation, or if one were to Google the term, the answers would initially be quite similar in nature. What most professing Christians believe is not much different from the rest of American society, simply because the term is associated with the oft-debated Establishment Clause within the first amendment to the United States Constitution.  There, the Constitution states that “congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” Therefore, when questioned, this is typically the first thing that comes to the mind of the average church-goer. When asked if one is familiar with the Doctrine of Separation, if the response is “yes,” the definition is usually linked to the separation of church and state, a political issue.

However, there are some within the body of Christ that not only know how to define the Doctrine of Separation, but take that definition to extremes. They use it bolster a sectarian mindset which excludes from fellowship any that differ, even in the slightest way, and have gone to great lengths to separate from others who do not strictly observe certain “fundamentals” of the faith.

So, to begin with, let us look at some definitions. By doing that we may better be able to determine if the Doctrine of Separation is properly being applied by certain Baptists who refuse to co-operate with others.

What is the Doctrine of Separation? The Doctrine of Separation is a teaching based primarily on one verse found in 2 Corinthians. Below is the verse (17) in its immediate context.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? [15] And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? [16] And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [17] Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate [emphasis added], saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you (2 Cor 6:14-17 KJV).”

The idea is that in order to maintain a right relationship with God one must separate oneself, or “come out from among” anyone, or any organization, that would seem to be in accord, friends with, or even remotely associated the “unfruitful works of darkness.”

The Doctrine of Separation can be divided into two separate categories: ecclesiastical and personal. In order to understand how specific this doctrine can be, it might be helpful to read how one Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) church defined ecclesiastical and personal separation in its doctrinal statement published on its website.[1] The following is a word-for-word copy of their definitions, and it is typical of most Baptist separatists.

Ecclesiastical Separation. We believe that we must stand up against and separate from all Apostasy, Liberalism, Modernism, Ecumenism, Charismatic influences, Neo-Orthodoxy, Neo-Evangelicalism, and Neo-Fundamentalism, as well as all groups, mission boards, organizations, churches, and cults that would compromise, cooperate and fellowship with such that do not uphold the historic Christian fundamentals of the faith as expressed by the Bible. II Corinthians 6:14-7:1; I Thessalonians 1:9,10; II Timothy 3:1-5.

Personal Separation. We believe that every Christian is to keep himself unspotted from the world, and in so doing must deny various practices, sinful habits, and worldly dress; and that a proper standard and example must be raised to the lost world and to weaker Christians. James 1:27; I Peter 2:11; Romans 6:11-13.

Notice that the call to be separate must include separation from both groups and individuals. It calls for strict standards of conduct and dress, prohibitions against working with other denominations, and an implied understanding of what exactly is correct behavior. The problem that arises, however, is when certain practices, habits, and dress are dictated by the church, not a Spirit-led conscience freed by grace. One man’s standard must then be applied to another, thereby legalistically judging him either fit for fellowship, or to be labeled as “liberal” or “modern.” The application of this doctrine can become very legalistic, and below are three concerns which should be brought out.

Issues of Concern

First, the issue that causes most concern with the author is that in no place does the above standards of separation make exception for the fact that sometimes members of the same family do not always agree. To totally separate one’s self from other believers, only because they have a different understanding or conviction for what constitutes “worldly dress” or “sinful habits” is a sin in its self. So often members of churches that prohibit women from wearing pants, for example, look at others who do with contempt. They do so because they believe that their own “dress code” is less “spotted by the world,” and thereby spiritually superior to the one which would allow “modern” and “liberal” dress. The author can vividly remember times from his own past when, all because a particular pastor’s wife was seen wearing pants to an evening service, the offending pastor and wife were deemed “liberal” and “not right with God.”

Another problem with the above list is that it does not take into account that many churches that do subscribe to conventions and associations, which may be liberal, are still autonomous and actually hold to the key fundamentals of the Baptist faith. And this is a key issue. There are certain fundamental truths of Christianity which cannot afford to be compromised, for if they are, then the compromiser can no longer be considered an orthodox Christian. What are the fundamentals of the faith that are non-negotiable?  According to Ed Dobson, Ed Hindson, and Jerry Falwell, there are five fundamentals that are at the heart of Christian Fundamentalism: 1) the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture; 2) the deity of Christ (including His virgin birth); 3) the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s death; 4) the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead; and 5) the literal return of Christ in the Second Advent. Don’t the separatists understand that within the community they are trying to reach there may be a congregation from a different denomination which still holds true to the above fundamentals?

Thirdly, there is the interesting fact that the fifth fundamental, one of the key beliefs of orthodox Christianity, the belief in the literal return of Jesus Christ (the second coming; or as some would define it: the Rapture) was never used by Paul as a litmus test for fellowship. What many have never stopped to notice is that in two specific instances the Apostle Paul dealt with believers who thought that the resurrection had already taken place (see 1 Cor. 15:12; 2 Thess. 2:2-3). In neither of these situations Paul encouraged separation. “The Corinthian Christians were told in a clear, unmistakable command to ‘remove the wicked man from among yourselves’ in their assembly,” said Robert Lightner in A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine in reference to the man guilty of immorality in 1 Cor. 5:13.[2]  He went on to point out that the “saints at Thessalonica were told also to ‘keep aloof’ [withdraw, KJV] from every brother who leads an unruly life…” Yet, “interestingly when Paul wrote to the same Christians in Corinth and Thessalonica concerning two specific doctrines which were being denied…he did not command to separate.” Why is it, then, that if such a key fundamental was believed back then, and Paul did not command the church to separate, do fundamentalists find it necessary to break fellowship with and label “liberal” and “modernistic” those who have a different view of eschatology?

Baptist History

Baptists (especially those of the IFB persuasion) are famous/infamous for their sectarian, separatist stands. Yet, even though they may be the largest group, and the one to be featured more predominately in this paper, they are not alone. Within every denomination of believers there are separatists. As a matter of fact, there are more denominations of Christianity in America than anywhere else in the world, and many of them were formed when separation was thought the only means to preserve orthodoxy. Each of these groups claims a biblical mandate (2 Cor. 6:14-17) to “come out from among” those who seem to be going in the wrong direction. The problem, however, lies not only in the ability to define, but in the application of the doctrine. A careful look at the Scripture passages they use, especially in light of other words from the Apostle Paul and Jesus, show that separation from members of the same family may be necessary in extreme cases, but every attempt should be made to maintain fellowship at the Father’s table.

Baptists have had a long history of separating on the basis of key doctrinal issues, and for this we owe them a great debt of gratitude. Long before arguments over dress codes and Bible translations, the Anabaptists put their lives on the line over the issues of baptism, the mass, and an ecclesiastical, state-run church. They were the first separatists, for no longer could they accept the position of the Reformers. Unlike great men such as Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, the Anabaptists would have no part of a church that taught unbiblical doctrine. They felt the state church was a fallen church, and from such only separation was appropriate. In February of 1527, in a document called The Schleitheim Confession, Michael Sattler wrote:

“We are agreed [as follows] on separation: a separation shall be made from them and from the wickedness which the devil planted in the world: in this manner, simply that we shall not have fellowship with them [the wicked] and not run with them in the multitude of their abominations . . . To us then the command of the Lord is clear when He calls upon us to be separate from the evil and thus he will be our God and we shall be His sons and daughters.”[3]

In modern times, Independent Baptist churches were founded in the second half of the twentieth century as a response to a growing trend toward liberalism and ecumenism that was begun a century earlier by men such as Hegel (1770-1831), F. C. Baur (1792-1862), Frederick Schleiermacher (1768-1834), and Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923).[4] No longer was there a mother church from which to separate, as did the Anabaptists from the Reformed church (reformed, but not completely separated from the ecclesiastical ways of the Catholic Church). Now the call was sent out for all those who held true to the Fundamentals to separate themselves from those within. Those with liberal leanings were to be marked and avoided (Rom. 16:17-19). The peak of resistance toward modernism from “fundamentalists” came in the 1940’s and 1950’s with the rise of the Billy Graham and the New Evangelicalism. It was at this time so many militant steps were made toward separating from the world, worldliness, and any modern approach toward evangelism, especially if it involved working together with those who may have differed on a belief or two, especially when it came to music and Bible versions. Billy Graham did, and still does bear the brunt of many senseless attacks.

Billy Graham, the Enemy

If a poll were taken today asking people who they thought was the most important and influential religious leader of the last fifty years, one name would probably rise to the top – Dr. Billy Graham. Actually, the Barna Group recently did conduct a study of Americans and found that nearly twenty percent of adults identified Reverend Billy Graham as the “most influential Christian leader in the U. S. today.”[5] Ironically, however, it was Billy Graham, along with other Christian leaders such as J. Vernon McGee, Howard Hendricks, and W. A. Criswell (all conservative giants), that biblical separatists accused of “building bridges of compromise and apostasy by their middle-of-the-roadism.”[6]  Was Dr. Graham perfect? Did he make the best judgment calls in every situation? Of course not, and pity the man who thinks he is strong enough to stand in the places Dr. Graham has stood without succumbing to the flesh. Yet, it was considered unconscionable for Christians to try new methods of outreach, or work with leaders of other denominations, in order to reach greater crowds with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

No, true to their heritage, fundamental, independently-minded Baptists could only see a devaluing of key, non-negotiable doctrines in favor of a more ecumenical approach to evangelism. So, from these men, especially Dr. Graham, fundamentalist Baptists broke fellowship. Even today, after all the souls that have been won to the Lord, there are Independent Baptists who still think Billy Graham is a liberal enemy of the church. For example, in 1992 this writer personally witnessed a Baptist pastor chastise a Romanian couple in their home (both of whom lost their engineering careers as a result of being publically baptized for their faith in Jesus) for nothing more than having an LP recording of a Billy Graham crusade. This arrogant American pastor would have never sat across the same table with Dr. Graham, or fellowshipped with those who did.

United Baptists

Not all Baptists have sought to separate, however. Some have sought to come together in unity for the cause of Christ. It is common knowledge that there is strength in numbers, and when it comes to Christian congregations, co-operation can lead to expanded ministry and encouragement. Even though the IFB churches in America have gained a reputation for being separatists, other Baptists have put aside minor differences for the common good, much like the family that seeks peace at the dinner table for the Father’s sake.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) makes up the largest protestant denomination in North America. But in Canada, there is the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches  who struggled for years before three separate denominations (the Maritime Convention of Maritime Baptists, the Free Baptists of New Brunswick, and the Free Baptists of Nova Scotia) formed the United Baptist Convention of the Maritime Provinces in 1906.  For a while, at least since the late 1800’s, many denominations had been pursuing unification, such as with the Canadian Baptists.[7] But there was and is a difference between the conventions, a difference worth noting. Baptists in America hold tenaciously to one of the most cherished fundamentals of Baptist doctrine, the autonomy of the local congregation. Canadian Baptists, on the other hand, possibly because of their monarchal heritage, allow the convention some control over the local congregation. For example, in order to be licensed and ordained to pastor a church in the NABC, the candidate must complete mandatory studies at a specific Canadian seminary, Acadia Divinity College.[8]

Most Independent Baptists consider conventions (like the SBC) to be unbiblical precisely because of their belief that all conventions assert control over local congregations. However, this is not the case with all, as seen above. For better or worse, many Christians felt that a unified Church was better than a divided one.  However, the practical result was a watering down of fundamental beliefs in order to keep from offending those seeking unity.  Strict standards of morality, which had been the norm for so long, were beginning to loosen; biblical inerrancy was being questioned; and mass evangelism was on the rise. The question of what was considered “essential and non-essential” came to the forefront of discussion. And even though attempts have been made by the author to co-operate in a community ministry with an IFB church, all efforts have failed. Because of the Doctrine of Separation, because it is believed unbiblical to co-operate with other believers who do not hold to all of the “fundamentals,” division continues.

Ecumenism

One of the great enemies of the Fundamentalists is Ecumenicalism. One of the big reasons, as could be inferred from previous reading, is that those who seek to unify the church as a whole, in many cases, want to compromise on key doctrines essential to Christianity, such as biblical inerrancy and the divinity of Christ. However, one ecumenical author made an astute observation that can tie directly into the discussion of “biblical separation.” In The Unfinished Reformation Charles Morrison wrote how that he noticed a tendency by separatists to use the Bible to say what was “biblical” without actually proving it literally so. He said that “anything, however trivial or fantastic or commonplace, that one could dig out of the Bible by however ingenious a manipulation of its texts and words was claimed to be authorized by Christ, and was made constitutive of a church ‘founded on the Bible.’”[9]

Much of what divides believers and congregations is based on teachings supposedly founded on Scripture and considered “biblical,” yet, in reality, are only based on culture or personal opinion, or even worse, misinterpretation. One good example is the belief that a church “founded on the Bible” should expect its men to wear pants and its women to wear dresses. Anything different would be considered rebellion to God’s commands found in the Bible. Anyone found in rebellion should therefore be marked and avoided. Yet what does the Bible actually say? “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so [are] abomination unto the LORD thy God” (Deut. 22:5). Here the Bible is used to enforce a cultural style. Nowhere does Moses say a woman should wear a dress and a man pants. All it says is that the man and women should dress in ways that “pertaineth” to their respective gender. In other words, a woman should look like a woman, not a man, and vice versa.

Family of God

The family of God is much bigger than one denomination. Before there were conventions and associations, there was the church. Before the Anabaptists, the Calvinists, the Arminians, and the Modernists, there were believers who loved the Lord and worshipped in one accord. They weren’t known for their building programs or bus ministries. They didn’t split over the color of the carpet or whether or not the pews were padded; they just wanted to stay alive. Why is it that so many put such a high priority on denomination, rather than unity? Does unity have to be synonymous with compromise? What kind of compromise is it to dwell in peace with a brother or sister in the presence of a loved earthly parent, even when differences are known to exist? Does compromise for the sake of fellowship change relationship? If a stranger were to sit at the mensam gratias (Latin, “table of thanks”), would his presence at the meal change the blood flowing through his veins? No, it would not. And striving for unity in the family will not change the relation of the true child to that of the Father. Therefore, when and if we find a brother or sister in the same family of Christ, should differences we have, however striking, prohibit us from attempting to share in some common way?

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the community of Lookout Valley, churches of like faith have met together every year for a Thanksgiving service. The author has participated in these services on multiple occasions. However, what has been lacking is any participation from the local Independent Baptist churches. Their absence is always noticed, and the message received is that all who are gathering must be those who would “compromise, cooperate and fellowship with such that do not uphold the historic Christian fundamentals of the faith as expressed by the Bible.[10] Their conspicuous absence sends a message that says, “We are more spiritual than you.” Their continual refusal shows the community at large that denomination is more important than family, fellowship, and the opportunity to show the world that we can be one in the Spirit, for that is where genuine unity exists.

The Prayer of Jesus

Jesus made it very clear, as recorded in the book of John, that He wanted the world to see believers come together in love. In a special moment Jesus even spoke of Christians today when He said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21). Our unity within the family of Christ is to be a form of evangelism, “that the world may believe.” And how arrogant are we when, in the face of an actual prayer of Jesus, we say that fellowship is impossible? First, where did Jesus mention the name of any denomination or association? All he spoke of were those in his presence and them “which shall believe on [Him] through their word.” Second, has there ever been a prayer of Jesus unanswered. Did Jesus pray “that they all may be one” in vain? The day may come when He has to force us to drop our labels and institutional names in favor of a discrete and secret meeting place underground. There, with no $20,000 sign flashing out front, the true family of God may have to get back to the way it was before the King James Version was printed.

Early Church Example

Francis Schaff, in volume two of History of the Christian Church, relates the following description of a people unconcerned with denominations, unaware of the “fundamentals,” but always ready to live in such a way that others knew they were not of this world. Quoting an unknown author describing the church in the early part of the second century, he writes:

The dwell in the Grecian or barbarian cities, as the case may be; they follow the usage of the country in dress, food, and the other affairs of life. Yet they present a wonderful and confessedly paradoxical conduct. They dwell in their own lands, but as strangers. They take part in all things, as citizens; and they suffer all things, as foreigners . . . They are in the flesh, but do not live after the flesh. They live upon the earth, but are citizens of heaven . . .They love all, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown, and yet they are condemned . . .They lack in all things, and in all things abound . . .They are cursed, and they bless.[11]

Why is it that we cannot try to emulate that kind of spirit? Does anyone seriously think the same description could apply to the Christian church of today?

Thankfully, there are those within the Baptist church who understand that the prayer of Jesus for unity was not just words. Thankfully, there are some out there that are striving to work with believers across denominational lines in an effort to reach the lost and dying, while at the same time recognizing there are doctrinal differences which must be taken into account. These people are not in the business of compromising Truth; they are in the business of fulfilling the Great Commission. One such group of people is the Southern Baptists.

Conclusion

If more IFB churches could be made aware of how conservative the SBC has become, maybe they would stop labeling them as liberal and start working more closely together. It is in the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000 that an encouraging statement is made which tempers the Doctrine of Separation. Under section fourteen, entitled “Cooperation,” the following words can be found:

Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people [emphasis added]. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.[12]

Is this not what Jesus wants? Is this not the way the family of Christ should conduct its self? Oh that the body of Christ would come together in true, biblical unity! Even the “black sheep” of the family are welcome at the Father’s table.

One more thing…

Many who hold to a legalistic view of the Doctrine of Separation are regularly guilty of hypocrisy. How could this be? Consider the fact that many of the “separated” churches have active members, deacons, and pastors who are fully-participating members of fraternal organizations, such as the Masons and Shriners. The irony is that according to the writings of one of the “great” leaders and teachers of Freemasonry, Albert Pike (1859-1891), Christians regularly enter into binding agreements, oaths, and common works, even using the term “brother,” with men from any number of other religions, including that of the eastern cults! He said, “We belong to no one creed or school. In all religions there is a basis of Truth; in all there is pure Morality. And all that teach the cardinal tenets of Masonry we respect; all teachers and reformers of mankind we admire and revere.[13]

Family should come before fraternity, the Church before the Lodge; yet, how quickly some will deny fellowship with those clothed in the righteous of Christ, preferring unity with those wrapped in an apron.

Again, how ironic.

[1] Heritage Baptist Church, “Declaration of Faith,” http://www.heritageministries.com/doctrine.html

[2] Robert P. Lightner, “A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine,” Bibliotheca Sacra (March, 1985), 20

[3] Ernest D. Pickering, Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church (Schaumburg, Ill.: Regular Baptist Press, 1979), 52.

[4] George W. Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America (Greenville: Bob Jones Press, 1973), 8-11

[5] http://www.barna.org/culture-articles/536-us-lacks-notable-christian-leaders

[6] George W. Dollar, 280

[7] Daniel C. Goodwin, “Maritime Baptist Union and the Power of Regionalism,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 2004.

[8] http://www.baptist-atlantic.ca/documents/ProceduresForOrdinationBrochure.pdf

[9] Charles Clayton Morrison, The Unfinished Reformation (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953), 209.

[10] Heritage Baptist Church

[11] Francis Schaff, Ante-Nicene Christianity: From the Death of John the Apostle to Constantine the Great [A.D. 100–325], Vol. 2 of History of the Christian Church (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), 9-10

[12] SBC, Baptist Faith and Message, 2000 (Nashville)

[13] Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, (Richmond: L. H. Jenkins) 311

 

Bibliography

Dobson, Ed, Ed Hinson, and Jerry Falwell, The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: The Resurgence of Conservative Christianity, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986.

Dollar, George W. The Fight for Fundamentalism: American Fundamentalism, 1973–1983. Sarasota: Dollar, George W., 1983.

Goodwin, Daniel C. “Maritime Baptist Union and the Power of Regionalism.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 41.2 (2004): 125+. Religion & Philosophy Collection. Web. 8 Apr. 2012.

Heritage Baptist Church. “Declaration of Faith.” http://www.heritageministries.com/doctrine.html (accessed April 9, 2012).

Lightner, Robert P. “A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine.” Bibliotheca Sacra 142, no. 565 (January 1, 1985): 16­­­–22. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed March 17, 2012).

Morrison, Charles Clayton. The Unfinished Reformation. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953.

Pickering, Ernest D.. Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church. Schaumburg: Regular Baptist Press, 1979.

Pike, Albert. Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Richmond: L. H. Jenkins, Inc., 1960

Schaff, Philip. Ante-Nicene Christianity: From the Death of John the Apostle to Constantine the Great [A.D. 100–325], Vol. 2 of History of the Christian Church. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002.

Southern Baptist Convention. “The Baptist Faith and Message.” http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp (accessed March 18, 2012).

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Don’t Be Skeerd

OK, so if you don’t get it, “skeerd” is “scared” spelled that way we say it sometimes in the South.

My Nightmare 

A while back I was woken up by a dream – a bad one. In reality, I can’t tell you for sure if it was really even a dream – it might have been real. I was walking down a hallway (I don’t know where) when a deep voice spoke to me, almost speaking through me, getting my attention.

The hallway down which I was walking was lit where I was, but towards the end it was dark. I was walking toward the darkness. When the voice spoke, it said something like, “I’m here, too,” or “You’re not alone”… I just can’t remember. I looked to my left and there was a 3D shadow…a walking dark shadow of a body…walking beside me as I was walking, and it looked at me.

The next thing that happened was I fell to the ground and started saying, barely able to voice the words, “Help me, Jesus!”

Immediately I woke up.

Honestly, I was rattled. That scared me. My heart was racing.

Then I got mad. I hated being scared. I knew that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world!”

So I tried to go back to sleep so I could get back into that dream. This wasn’t over.

But the dream never came back.

Don’t Let These Skeer You

The dream I had reminded me of a post I wrote several years ago. In it, I made a list of things of which Christian should not be afraid. Below is an edited version, including an addition.

8 things of which a Christian should not be afraid:

Dracula, or any other vampire that stalks you through your window.

Just show them your cross. If that doesn’t work anymore, then quote Scripture. Of course, if you are a girl, then you’d be better off to just call 911, or better yet, shoot the idiot trying to act like a character from Twilight.

Disclaimer – DO be afraid of Vampire Bats. They have rabies. You may be alright when they bite you, but then again, you may be wishing your church family had something else to pray for…(I ended with a preposition, see?).

Atheists

If they prove that there is no God, no reason for faith, and no reason for the forgiveness of sin, then you have nothing to worry about. They can’t prove there is no God, you know, but if they ever did, then you are free to whack them in the head with the biggest hardcover KJV you can find. If there’s no God, then there’s no absolutes or basis for morality outside of what makes you feel good. Make yourself feel better when they take away your hope by knocking the grin off their face…they should understand.

Crazy worship styles and screens on walls.

No reason to fear these things, people. As long as the worship is from the heart and it IS true worship, not self-satisfying, self-glorifying entertainment, then God will be pleased. On the other hand, if church attendance continues to decline in this country, you won’t be able to afford the electricity needed to run the projectors and fancy sound equipment used by many praise bands. Where two or three are gathered together, there the non-electric bluegrass will be in the midst of them.

Disclaimer – For the record, I love bluegrass gospel. Sorry. Wait, I’m not sorry. Scratch that. I love bluegrass and want to see the words projected on screens in church for all to sing along….with.

Stray dogs that wander in through an open door and listen to the church service.

Had it happen. Didn’t mind. At least when the dog fell asleep he didn’t snore.

Week-long revival meetings.

Where have these things gone? All we see anymore are the 3-day kind, if not the weekend ones that include Sunday, but not Friday.

Just think, if we went back to longer revival meetings, then……wait…..does anybody have revival meetings anymore? We must be too skeerd of having to get dressed up each night; miss some TV we could easily DVR for later; miss a ball game or party, or hear something from God that might convict us. THAT should scare our socks off.

Visitation

What is there to be scared of? Why do we hate knocking on doors, prayer-walking streets, etc.? As long as we’re not trying to sell anything, then most people are happy to meet someone who cares about them. Sure, there are the few vampires that don’t want you coming around, but most folks are at least cordial, at least here in the South. Folks don’t like being banged over the head with your Bible, but they do appreciate being greeted kindly and invited to someplace nice. Just invite them to the King’s house for a meet-and-greet (with a little sweet tea and love, they might just figure we’re not out to take their money).

Change

Some things remain the same, and they have stones above their heads. Now, when those things come back from the dead, you DO have something to be skeerd….of (one more preposition misplacement). Of course, it all depends on Who raises the dead, too. Are they being raised to “walk in newness of life,” or to eat the flesh of screaming movie-goers? Either way, just invite them to a homecoming dinner on the ground and they’ll be alright.

Bad Dreams

Yeah, nightmares are not fun. Heck, dealing with anything demonic is not fun, either. However, God is still God, even in your dreams. He is Sovereign, even over the thoughts and intents of the heart. Therefore, don’t be afraid to go to sleep, particularly if you know that the God who created sleep is ALSO with you in the dark.

The next time you encounter a walking shadow or monster of any kind, call out to Jesus for help – no joke. YOU decide how the dream is going to turn out by inviting Jesus – the Name above all names – to take over.

Darkness will flee and He will deliver thee.

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A Last and a First: Closing One Ministry and Beginning Another

As many of you know, I am now the pastor of a church down in Warthen, Georgia. You probably also know that I used to pastor South Soddy Baptist in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee.

Well, I thought it might be of interest to some of you to listen to two different sermons – one from my last day at South Soddy, and the other from my first day at Bethlehem Baptist.

But the reason I am sharing both of these back-to-back is so that hopefully you will notice a similarity between them. What I hope you will notice, despite the sadness of one and the excitement of the other, is a common thread of hope and assurance that God is still at work and the work for us to do is not done.

God bless you all, and I hope to get back to writing very soon – there sure is a lot to talk about!

Click on the pictures below for links to sermons.

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The More You Know…

It’s been a while…

It has been a couple of weeks or more since I last sat down to really hammer out anything original. Most of my posts have been re-posts or shares from other blogs. However, before I leave the McDonald’s where I’m using free WiFi, I feel I’ve got to get something off my chest.

For years I studied and studied, spending lots of money and time in Bible school, college, and seminary – and I’m still learning. And even after all of that, I feel so inadequate, so unlearned, because there’s so much I still don’t know. It’s really true what they say – the more you learn, the more you know there’s more to learn.

Yet, let’s be honest – or at least honest with myself – I’m no idiot. I have been taught by some great teachers and have attended some great schools. I’ve even learned one of the greatest skills one can possess – the ability to know how to learn. So, there’s hardly any excuse for me not to know what I need to know.

And that leads me to a sobering and chilling revelation that came to me yesterday…one that I knew, but need to be reminded of…

I am going to be held accountable for what I know and what I preach and teach.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 

I am going to have to answer to God for the proper care and feeding of His flock. I am going to have to answer for each one that gets led astray when I’m not looking. I’m going to be held accountable for their undernourishment when I should have been able to lead them to green pastures.

I’m a qualified and experienced shepherd – I have no excuses.

One deacon said to me, “We are looking forward to benefiting from your expertise.” My expertise? Of course! It was like at that moment the Holy Spirit whispered into my ear: “You have what they need…Why else do you think I would have led you here?”

On my first night after my very first day in the office (not even unpacked), I got called to the church to meet with an individual who was having serious problems that were way over my head – but not beyond what the counsel of the Word could deal with! Right there, right out of the gate, God brought to my mind what I had learned and gleaned from past experience and a victory was had in this man’s life!

Some of this may seem elementary and obvious to you. I mean, what else does it mean to be a pastor than this? But what hit me last night was the fact that now, more than ever, much has been given to me – much more than I stopped to realize – and MUCH will be required.

Looking forward to hearing “Well done” has been taken to a whole new level. 

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I’m a Word Farmer

Again, since I’ve been so busy as of late (with the move to Georgia and the new pastoral responsibilities), I’m going to share my most recent (re)post on Proverbial Thought. It is certainly applicable.

Proverbial Thought (& More)

Proverbs 12:14

“A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth: and the recompense of a man’s hands shall be rendered unto him.”

Word Farming

It should come as no shock to anyone that I use words on a daily basis. I talk, write, sing, preach, teach, and even counsel second-graders on my school bus regarding their poor dating choices (but that’s a different story).

I am a word farmer, and my mouth could be compared to one of those big machine-thingys (non-farmer terminology) that spreads seed across a field. From morning till evening I am like a John Deere pulling a seed drill (farmer terminology), planting row after row of something that should grow.

The hope is that whatever I am planting will produce a good harvest. And if I am planting good seed, then I will be satisfied with the “good fruit.”

Don’t Work, Don’t…

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