Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Trumpcated Gospel

I do not support Donald Trump for President of the United States of America.  I will not vote for him.  His authoritarian ideals would be a disaster for our country.  He recently said that when he is president we will hear "Merry Christmas!" in the department stores.  He also will attempt to force Apple to build their computers in this country.  Apparently he doesn't understand that accomplishing such feats is impossible without shredding the United States Constitution.  Beyond those concerns, the despicable things he has said about Megyn Kelly and other women make me sick.  His support for Planned Parenthood should not be tolerated by those who claim the name of Christ.  I could go on and on.  A Donald Trump presidency would be a disaster for our country.

With all of that being said, these are not the things that concern me most about the Donald Trump phenomenon.  He claims to be one of "the evangelicals" and has been baptized in the praises of Dr. Robert Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptist Dallas, and Dr. Jerry Falwell Jr., Chancellor of Liberty University.  The thing that concerns me most is my perception that many evangelical leaders have exchanged the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for a Trumpcated gospel.

What do I mean by a Trumpcated gospel?

To truncate the gospel would be to alter the gospel by cutting it short.  We might truncate the gospel by talking about grace and forgiveness without talking about sin and holiness.  We might truncate the gospel by calling people to receive Jesus as their Savior without calling them to bow their knee to Him as Lord.  But that isn't exactly what is happening with Donald Trump.  Rather than truncating the gospel, many evangelicals are Trumpcating the gospel.  They are not cutting the gospel short.  They are preaching a gospel that is altogether different from the one that has been once for all delivered to the saints.

Let's consider the most egregious example.  Trump doesn't believe he needs to ask God for forgiveness.  Republican pollster Frank Luntz asked Trump if he'd ever asked God for forgiveness.  Trump responded, "I am not sure I have."  He continued, "I just go on and try to do a better job from there.  I don't think so.  I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right.  I don't bring God into that picture.  I don't."  Now perhaps you think Trump made a mistake.  He is a politician, not a theologian.  Surely he is entitled to a mistake here and there.  Well, when asked if he regretted saying those things Trump said, "No."  He went on to refer to his great relationship with God and "the evangelicals."  He said, "I like to be good.  I don't like to have to ask for forgiveness.  And I am good.  I don't do a lot of things that are bad.  I try to do nothing that is bad."  How could he regret something he said?  In his eyes, he has no need for forgiveness.

Trump's comments are antithetical to the true gospel as revealed in Scripture.  The gospel says that we are all sinners.  The gospel says that we are all enemies of God because of our sin.  Our only hope of being made right with God is by experiencing the grace and forgiveness that is only available in Jesus Christ.  We all need forgiveness.  That is the Christian message.  There is none righteous, no not one.

In his introduction of Trump at Liberty University Convocation, Jerry Falwell Jr. spoke of Trump's "fruit."  He listed a string of generous gifts given to people by Donald Trump.  He then quoted from Matthew 7 about knowing a tree by its fruit, and implied that Donald Trump is a Christian.  Falwell claims some special knowledge of Donald Trump as a man that the rest of us are not privy to.  If we just knew Trump as he does, we would know that he is a good Christian man.  I could not disagree more.  The bad fruit that we see on the outside serves as evidence of who Trump is on the inside.  If Trump has never repented of his sin and placed his faith in Jesus for salvation, he is not a Christian.

Let me be clear.  I really do not expect Trump to sound like a Christian when he talks.  I certainly do not expect sound theology from the owner of strip clubs and casinos.  I expect Trump to talk and live like a lost man.  He has given no reason for anyone to expect anything different.  The fact that Trump would preach a Trumpcated gospel doesn't surprise me or even concern me necessarily.  I expect as much.  And while Trump's vision for America does not match mine, I respect the decision of those who feel Trump is the candidate that best aligns with their views.  My concerns in this piece have very little to do with the presidency of the United States.

I am infinitely more concerned that leaders like Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell Jr. are preaching this Trumpcated gospel.  They can vote for whoever they want.  They can even endorse whichever candidate they prefer.  Though I disagree with their "beat Hillary at all costs" perspective, I can understand it.  But please do not pretend as if Donald Trump is a brother in Christ.  Please do not suggest that the good things Donald Trump has done somehow outweigh the bad.  Don't recite Matthew 7:1 as if Jesus said those words to prohibit us from making clear moral judgments on the authority of His Word.

Brothers and sisters, may we reject this Trumpcated gospel.  We do not somehow earn favor with God by "drinking our little wine and eating our little cracker."  Favor with God is only gained by repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  May we cling tightly to the true gospel as revealed in the Scriptures.  May we reject all attempts to pervert the gospel for political ends.  May we cling to biblical fidelity and reject political expediency.  Doing so may not be popular.  It may prove to be difficult.  It may even result in a Democrat being elected president.  But more than we fear another Democrat in the White House, we should fear gaining the whole world, while losing our soul.

Note: I have been biting my tongue for months regarding Donald Trump's candidacy.  It is not my place as a pastor to endorse candidates for public office.  To prevent from erring on the other side of that coin, I typically refrain from openly criticizing political candidates as well.  However, I feel compelled to speak now because I believe that it is not just the presidency that is at stake, but also the clear proclamation of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Because leading evangelicals like Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell Jr. have spoken in a way that clouds the gospel, I feel the need to combat their false teaching with truth.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Do We Worship The Same God?

The word "advent" is a noun that refers to "the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event."  We refer to the weeks leading up to Christmas as the Advent season.  Many families have Advent calendars that they use to count down the days left until Christmas.  Many churches light a candle each Sunday of Advent.  This candle lighting culminates in the lighting of the Christ candle either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  For Christians, the Advent season is about celebrating the incarnation of the Word.  God took on flesh and dwelt among us.

On December 10, Larycia Hawkins, a professor at Wheaton College in Chicago, posted on her Facebook page a picture of herself wearing the hijab—the head covering worn by Muslim women.  Her stated purpose for doing this was to show solidarity with Muslims who have experienced an increased amount of discrimination in light of recent events.  It is certainly true that some influential people have resorted to callous and uninformed rhetoric when speaking of Muslims, but Hawkins' response is representative of a greater danger.

On its own, Hawkins' decision to wear the hijab is certainly open for scrutiny, but it is some of what she wrote in her Facebook post announcing this decision that is most concerning.  Hawkins wrote, "I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book.  And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God."  She went on to write, "As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town, in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church."

Is this an appropriate way for Christians to combat Islamophobia?  How can a person wear a head covering that is identified with another religion which rejects the Christian God as part of their Advent worship?  Advent is about the birth of Jesus.  Muslims reject the Christian understanding of the person of Jesus Christ.  Wearing the hijab and celebrating the birth of Jesus the Messiah are incompatible.  We cannot worship Jesus by paying homage to other religions that reject the claims of Jesus.

But worse than Hawkins' statement concerning wearing the hijab as part of her Advent worship, is her statement that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.  This is the statement that has come under the most fire and resulted in Hawkins' suspension from Wheaton.  The Apostle John would most certainly disagree with Hawkins.  John wrote, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).  He went on to write, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).

The Word that John refers to in the first chapter of His Gospel is Jesus Christ.  John says very clearly that Jesus is God.  Islam rejects this truth.  Islam teaches that Jesus was a prophet.  Muslims not only reject Jesus as the second person of the Godhead, but they also reject the personhood of the Holy Spirit.  Islamic teaching concerning god flies in the face of the Christian understanding of God.  Christians worship the Triune God Who is three persons but one God.  Muslims reject this God.

But why is this such a big deal?  The Apostle John wrote in his first epistle, "Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.  No one who denies the Son has the Father.  Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also" (1 John 2:22-23).

That all seems very straightforward.  Muslims deny that Jesus is the Christ.  Therefore, John says, Muslims are against Christ.  They do not know God the Father because they deny the Son.  Because the God of the Bible is not the god of Islam, Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God.  The Scriptures leave no room for debate on this essential point of theology.

The truth is that even Jews who reject Jesus as the Messiah do not worship the one true God.  They may refer to the god they worship as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but he is not.  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the Triune God.  He was the Triune God in Genesis 1 when He said, "Let US make man in OUR image."  In fact, there has never been a time when God was not Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  John opened his Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word."  Genesis 1:2 tells us of the Spirit hovering over the face of the waters while everything was still without form and void.

No one who denies the Son has the Father.  Jesus is God.  The Spirit is God.  God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  No one who denies these truths worships the God that Christians worship.

Now this all has massive implications for our evangelistic witness.  We are reminded that the way we love our Muslim neighbors is not by incorporating parts of their religion into our worship practices.  We must not give our Muslim friends and neighbors any false assurance that we worship the same God.  The way we love our Muslim neighbors is by sharing with them the matchless name of Jesus Christ.  We tell them that Jesus is God.  We tell them that He died to pay for their sin.  We tell them that by receiving Him and believing in His name, they not only can know the one true God, but they can be His children.  This is the message of Christmas.  This is the hope that all people need whether Jew, Muslim, or atheist.

As we continue to celebrate the Advent of God made flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ, may we seek to know God more and worship Him as He truly is.  Let's not give ourselves over to fear concerning our Muslim friends and neighbors.  Instead may we commit ourselves to sharing the truth of God with all people, because Jesus Christ is the only hope for any of us.

If you would like to hear my sermon from December 13 on John 1:1, you can find the audio on our church website.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Pastoral Prayer Concerning the Attacks in Paris

Yesterday I led our church in prayer concerning the attacks in Paris.  I am including below the full text of my pastoral prayer.

Father, we come to you this morning confessing our lack of understanding.  We know that the hearts of all people are sinful.  But we do not understand why people's evil hearts cause them to commit such acts of terror against their fellow human beings.  We cannot begin to comprehend the fear of those who witnessed these attacks, and the pain and hurt of those who lost loved ones.  Our hearts are troubled.  So often in this world, evil men seem to prevail.  The attacks of this week in Paris are but one example where evil seems to have prevailed. 

We come to you this morning crying out on behalf of the people of France, especially those in Paris.  We ask that you would provide healing for those who were injured in the attacks.  We ask that you would provide comfort and strength for the families of those who lost loved ones.  May they know your peace that surpasses all understanding.  May your strength be made perfect in their weakness.  Prove your grace to be sufficient for them.  We pray for peace and a sense of calmness to prevail in the days to come in Paris.  Provide healing for that city.  We pray that fear would not prevail.  We pray that the believers in Paris would rise up and be an example of unwavering trust and confidence in you.  May your gospel go forth in the midst of tragedy.  May your Word be a source of comfort and strength.  We pray that many would be drawn to you. 

We also pray for justice for those responsible.  You are a God of justice.  You have ordained civil government to carry the sword on your behalf.  Use government to execute justice on your behalf, we pray.

We pray also for ourselves.  Help us not to be overcome by a sense of fear.  Help us not to fear uncertainty.  Help us not to fear terrorists.  Help us not to fear death.  Help us to trust in you.  Strengthen our confidence in you.  God, you have not guaranteed us safety in this fallen world, but you have promised to be with us.  You have promised us that you will not forsake us.  You have instructed us in your Word not to be anxious about anything.  Help us in that, we pray.  Remind us that you care about us as your image bearers and those who have been reconciled to you by the shed blood of Jesus.  We are your children.  Help us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Finally, we look forward to a day when you will right every wrong.  Vengeance belongs to you, O God.  Our confidence is in Christ.  Our confidence is in the one who will return riding on a white horse.  He is called Faithful and True, and He judges in righteousness.  We long for the day when He will judge the evil of this world in righteousness.  Help us to look forward to that day.  Help us to set our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ.  We pray these things in the name of our Savior.  Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Some #BGAV15 Clarifications

I have written a couple of blog posts about this week's meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.  I have also read some other blog and social media posts and comments that have been written.  As I prepare to head to Richmond tomorrow, I thought I would write one more post with a few clarifications.

Unity is not the same as unanimity

The calls for unity have been clear.  I hear those calls, and I agree with them.  That is, as long as we mean the same thing by unity.  Unity is not unanimity.  A commitment to unity means that we commit ourselves to treating one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.  It means that we don't threaten to leave the family when we don't get our way.  It means we recognize that the BGAV is not about us, but the work God is doing in and through us.

We can be united together even if we disagree on some items of business.  If disagreement is not allowed, we'll have to stop boasting about the diversity of Virginia Baptists.  We should not be afraid of having things challenged from the floor.  We should not be afraid of discussion related to very important matters concerning our partnership together.  We certainly should not be afraid of having more than one candidate for the BGAV's top elected officer position.

I'm not Brad Hoffmann's campaign manager

Brad Hoffmann, the pastor of Cool Springs Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, VA, is running for BGAV President.  I have written about his candidacy here.  I am glad he is running.  I will be voting for Brad.  I am bringing members of the church I pastor with me to vote for Brad.  But no one should assume that my concerns are the reason Brad is running for BGAV President.  I had never heard of Brad Hoffmann until his candidacy was announced.  Though I expect this to change tomorrow, I have never met him in person.

Brad has been very clear about the reasons he is running.  He believes that he is the best person on the ticket to lead the BGAV forward.  I agree with him.  He has a vision to see Virginia Baptists move from being mission minded to truly living missionally.  I appreciate what he has written in this regard.  Brad pastors a church that has been very generous in its mission giving both in total dollars and percentage.  He is well-positioned to challenge and encourage churches to do more to financially support our cooperative work together.

I hope some will read what I have written about the reasons why I am glad Brad is running and decide to vote for Brad.  I also hope that my stated reasons for supporting Brad will not cause anyone to assign motives to him that he has not verified himself.  Don't allow your disagreements with me to keep you from voting for a very qualified candidate in Brad Hoffmann for BGAV President.

My SBC/CBF concerns are not political

My concerns are theological.  The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship held a panel at their annual meeting this year addressing the subject of homosexuality.  One pastor who participated in the panel pastors a church that welcomes committed homosexuals into the membership of the church.  The other pastors a church that is more closed toward homosexuality.  These two pastors argued in the panel that homosexuality should not be an issue that divides us.  I could not disagree more.

You do not have to agree with my theology, but it isn't necessary to accuse those who disagree of having political motivations for their concerns.

I don't think homosexuality is the only issue

I believe that homosexuality is a big issue facing the BGAV.  There are churches within the BGAV who believe we should remain committed to one another regardless of what individual congregations decide to do regarding homosexuality.  I disagree very strongly.  Each local church is autonomous.  But so is the BGAV.  The BGAV has the right and responsibility to define the parameters of cooperation.  We are Baptists.  Therefore, Baptist distinctives are non-negotiables in our association of churches.  It is my contention that nothing that is more important than our Baptist distinctives should be negotiable either.  I believe in local church autonomy as much as anyone, but it is not more important than whether something is sinful that the Bible clearly calls sin.

While it is a big issue, homosexuality is not the only issue facing the BGAV.  The $1 million budget reduction is a big one.  I am concerned about it too.  But neither are the two mutually exclusive.  If the BGAV doesn't figure out where it stands now (not 20 years ago) on the issue of homosexuality, the bleeding will continue.


I am looking forward to gathering together in Richmond this week.  I am looking forward to the worship times, seeing the new governance structure in action, and even having important discussions about issues that can sometimes be controversial.  I am looking forward to spending time with friends and meeting some new friends as well.  I am looking forward to spending Wednesday with some people from my church.  I am expecting a good meeting.  I am expecting to learn things, and walk away giving thanks to God for the things He is doing among Virginia Baptists.  See you in Richmond!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Resolution for 2015 BGAV Annual Meeting

I have submitted a resolution to the Resolutions Committee of the Baptist General Association of Virginia that addresses the subjects of homosexual behavior and the sanctity of marriage.  I am hoping that this resolution will receive consideration at the annual meeting of the BGAV to be held November 9-11 at Second Baptist Church in Richmond, VA.  In 1993 the BGAV passed a resolution on homosexual behavior that is representative of the Bible's clear teaching on the subject.  In 1998 the BGAV also passed a resolution on the sanctity of marriage that defines marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman.  My resolution is intended to be a reaffirmation of the BGAV's historic position on these important issues.

The cultural climate in America has changed very much over the last 20 years.  Homosexual unions are now recognized as marriage in all 50 states.  The president has shifted his views on the subject.  Public opinion in America seems to support giving homosexual couples the ability to have their unions solemnized as marriage by the government.  Baptist ethicist David Gushee has shifted his opinion on homosexuality, and undoubtedly many others who claim the name of Christ and the denominational identifier of "Baptist" have as well.  In fact, within our own BGAV, I read a sermon where one pastor endorsed homosexual relationships without explicitly giving his support and the support of the church.  He said that he did not know if he would perform a homosexual marriage in the future.  Part of it would depend on whether the deacons of the church would give their approval to his participation.

In fact, during the floor discussion that took place regarding Ginter Park at the 2012 meeting of the BGAV, one person contended that the BGAV's official position was 20 years old and should be reconsidered.  I agree that the position should be reconsidered.  But it is my contention that it should be reconsidered with a reaffirmation of our historic position.  Passing the resolution I have written would be such a reaffirmation.

I am concerned that a failure by the BGAV to speak clearly on this important issue will cause great harm to our association of churches.  There are some who will argue that we should just agree to disagree on the sinfulness of homosexuality.  The problem is that if we have to agree to disagree about something on which the Bible speaks very clearly, I am not sure what we can agree on.  If we are going to cooperate together for the cause of the gospel, there has to be a certain level of theological agreement for that cooperation to work.  We have in the past decided that there are some theological issues not worth dividing over.  It is my contention that this issue does not fall in that category.  We must be clear about what sin is if we are going to point people to the salvation that is only found in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have included my resolution below.  You can find links to the 1993 and 1998 resolutions above.

Resolution Reaffirming the 1993 Resolution on Homosexual Behavior and 1998 Resolution on the Sanctity of Marriage:

WHEREAS, the Baptist General Association of Virginia approved a resolution at its annual meeting in 1993 affirming the Bible's teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior; and

WHEREAS, the Baptist General Association of Virginia also approved a resolution at its annual meeting in 1998 affirming the sanctity of marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman; and

WHEREAS, the cultural climate in our country has changed dramatically since that time as it relates to both homosexual behavior and the definition of marriage; and

WHEREAS, in October 2014 the Commonwealth of Virginia began recognizing same-sex marriage in response to a ruling by a federal judge that Virginia's marriage amendment is unconstitutional; and

WHEREAS, in June 2015 the United States Supreme Court ruled that the United States Constitution grants the right to same-sex marriage, and consequently all fifty states must now recognize same-sex marriage; and

WHEREAS, many state and national government leaders have applauded the Supreme Court's June 2015 decision; and

WHEREAS, various religious leaders—including many Baptists—have now spoken in favor of same-sex marriage, and have begun to officiate same-sex weddings; and

WHEREAS, the Bible's clear teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior and the sanctity of marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman has not and will not change; and

WHEREAS, there is an increasing need for Christians to speak with moral clarity regarding the issues of our day; therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED that the messengers to the Baptist General Association of Virginia meeting in Richmond, Virginia, November 9–11, 2015, continue to affirm the Bible's clear teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior and the sanctity of marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we continue to affirm both the 1993 resolution on homosexual behavior and the 1998 resolution on the sanctity of marriage.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Four Reasons why I'm Glad Brad Hoffmann is Running for BGAV President

The church I pastor, Drakes Branch Baptist Church, is affiliated with the Baptist General Association of Virginia.  The BGAV was instrumental in the initial formation of our church, and helped financially when the church first decided to hire a full-time pastor in the 50s.  The ties between our church and the BGAV are strong.  While not agreeing with everything that happens within the BGAV (Isn't that the case with any group you choose to be a part of?), I am thankful for the things God has done over the years through our association of churches.

For almost 20 years now, the election for president of the BGAV has been uncontested every year.  Since 2000, the first vice president from the previous year has been elected as president.  This year that will change.  Two candidates have been announced for the election for BGAV president that will take place on November 11 at Second Baptist Church in Richmond, VA.  The current first vice president who will be nominated for president is Nancy McDaniel.  She is the pastor of Rhoadesville Baptist Church in Rhoadesville, VA.  The other candidate will be Brad Hoffmann who is the pastor of Cool Spring Baptist Church in Mechanicsville, VA.

I do not know him personally, but I am thankful that Pastor Hoffmann will be running.  I have been able to use the internet to find out some information about him and the church he pastors since I learned of his candidacy.  I will be in Richmond to vote, and I want to give you four reasons why I am glad that Brad Hoffmann is running for BGAV president.

1. Someone had to do it.

The pattern of electing the current first vice president to the presidency year after year without opposition needs to be broken.  I have no issue in theory with candidates running unopposed.  I have no issue in theory with the first vice president being elected as president the following year.  But we should not just assume that the current first vice president is the best person for the job.  There has not been a contested officer election in recent years.  If I jumped out ahead of everyone with a nomination of Pastor Billy Bob for first vice president one year, should we just assume that he should be elected unopposed and become president the following year despite the fact that he can't spell BGAV?  Of course not!

We should not feel as if we are breaking some unwritten rule by nominating a qualified candidate for an officer position within the BGAV.  I had been saying for a while that I wished someone else would run for president.  Apparently Pastor Hoffmann felt the same way.  I am glad he chose to stick his neck out there and run.

2. There are churches with in the BGAV who oppose the election of Nancy McDaniel.

I was at the annual meeting last year in Hampton when McDaniel was elected first vice president.  She ran unopposed so there was no other candidate to vote for.  When the moderator held the vote for first vice president, he gave the opportunity for messengers to vote for McDaniel.  He then gave the opportunity for messengers to vote in opposition to her election.  I am no expert on parliamentary procedure, but that seemed very strange to me and was likely a mistake by the moderator.  Regardless of whether they should have been given that opportunity, several messengers voiced their opposition to McDaniel's election as first vice president when the vote was held.

My position is that if you oppose the election of someone who is running unopposed, you should either keep your mouth shut or run against them yourself.  Since I wasn't running, I kept my mouth shut.  I would have done the same thing this time if McDaniel were running unopposed again.  I am glad that Pastor Hoffmann is running because now I won't have to be silent during the election for BGAV president.

3. Pastor Hoffmann's SBC connections are strong.

I am concerned by what I perceive to be an ever widening gap between the BGAV and the SBC.  Many churches within the BGAV are no longer connected to the SBC.  They either give a token amount to the SBC and its offerings, or they give nothing at all.  Many have strongly aligned themselves with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which continues to move further and further from traditional Christian beliefs.  We need a president who will strengthen our state connections with the mission sending entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.

According to the BGAV's 2014 Annual Report of Church Contributions, Cool Spring Baptist Church gave $105,908.43 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  They also gave $16,514.43 to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.  Surely those numbers come from a large congregation of 1,150 in regular attendance on Sunday mornings, but they are still impressive because the LMCO offering amount is an average of over $90 per regular attender.  Cool Spring Baptist Church is to be commended for their generous giving.  And I am thankful for their strong commitment to the SBC.

4. The BGAV needs a proven leader.

These are critical times in the Baptist General Association of Virginia.  Various factors—from financial difficulties to theological differences—threaten to undermine our cooperative work.  The executive board recently announced that they are proposing a budget for the coming year that is being cut from $11.5 million to $10.5 million.  There is no positive way to spin that news, except to say that it is good that they have reduced the budget to match expected receipts.  Being forced to decrease the budget almost 10% is a major blow to the BGAV.  It is a trend that cannot continue indefinitely.

I am also concerned that the SCOTUS decision in June will highlight theological differences that exist within our association of churches, as some churches will undoubtedly choose to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies and receive homosexual couples as members and leaders in the church.  It is being argued in some circles that this is an issue on which we need to be able to agree to disagree.  If we have to agree to disagree on whether something is sin that the Bible clearly defines as sin, what can we agree on?  I have submitted a resolution to the BGAV's Resolution Committee that tackles this issue head on.  I will be posting more about that in the coming days.

Brad Hoffmann has proven himself to be a capable leader in the churches he has pastored in the past and in his current church.  I believe that he will be a bridge builder when possible, but also will stand for what is right when necessary.  I say all of this to say that I am thankful for Brad Hoffmann and his willingness to run for BGAV president.  If you are a Virginia Baptist, I hope you will strongly consider him as a candidate for this important office.

You can read more about Pastor Hoffmann's decision to run here, here, and here.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Word Concerning Friday's SCOTUS Decision

On Friday the Supreme Court handed down an edict declaring that all 50 states must now recognize so-called same-sex marriage as marriage.  

The reality is that in many ways nothing has changed:

1.  Marriage is still the one flesh union of one man and one woman as established by God in Genesis 2:24.  Nothing else has ever been marriage.  Nothing else is marriage now.  And nothing else will be marriage in the days to come.

2.  Sexual perversion still exists today just as it did on Thursday before the ruling, and as it always has.  You do not have to read very far in the book of Genesis to discover that there is nothing new under the sun.

3.  The sovereign God of the universe is still on His throne.  He has always been on His throne, and He will always be on His throne.  He did not take a break on Friday and come back to discover what had happened while He was out.  He is not out of control.  Though the culture all around us may feel like sinking sand, we can stand firm on Christ the solid rock.

4.  The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is still for all kinds of sinners who would repent of their sin and place their faith in Jesus.  This is the message we must carry forth.  We must be clear about what sin is.  And we must be clear about what grace is.  None of that has changed.  May we continue forth as ministers of reconciliation, calling people to be reconciled to God in a world that is broken in many ways, including but not limited to sexual brokenness.

While there are many ways in which nothing has changed, there is much that has changed:

Make no mistake.  Friday's expected decision was a big deal.

1.  It means that the laws of our land now contribute to the confusion experienced by so many who feel attracted to people of the same sex.  Those five justices who represented the majority in this decision have blood on their hands.  The President celebrated (complete with rainbow lights on the White House) a decision that will lead people further down the path that leads only to destruction.

2.  It means that religious liberty is and will be in jeopardy in the days to come.  We have seen it already with a few individuals who have chosen to stand on their convictions rather than bowing to the new sexual orthodoxy.  I don't mean to sound like an alarmist.  I am not concerned that someone is going to bust open our doors today and prevent me from speaking the truth of God's Word.  I am concerned that there will come a day when churches and religious institutions begin to lose their tax exempt status for standing firm on God's Word.  I am concerned that many of you will be forced to make difficult decisions in the workplace about whether you will stand firm in what you believe and refuse to do certain things that violate your conscience.

3.  It means that the wrath of God is upon this nation.  I do not mean that God's wrath is going to fall because of this decision, though certainly it may.  I mean that it has already fallen with this decision.  Romans 1 is very clear that one of the ways God pours out His judgment and wrath is by turning people over to their own desires.  America has been turned over to her own desires.  A radical shift has taken place in public opinion over the last 10 years.  America got exactly what she wanted on Friday.  Those five justices did not find a right to so-called same-sex marriage in the constitution.  They found a desire for it among the people of this country.  And they ruled with the people.

As your pastor I commit to helping us think through these things in the days ahead as we navigate the rough waters in front of us.  But now I want to pray and ask God's help for all of us.