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The Pathway to Unity Includes Dying to the Narcissism of Our Minor Differences

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I once attended a service at a church of a different flavor. The history of their movement includes several thousand churches splintering away from Baptists a couple hundred years ago over differences in ecclesiology, baptism, worship, and a few other issues.

I was surprised at our similarities. Sitting through their service felt just like sitting through the service I was accustomed to attending. There was biblical preaching, singing from a hymnal, an invitation of sorts, hand-shaking at the door, and pretty much a common set of cultural values. But our two movements have a rough history filled with debate and deep division.

After a couple of decades in ministry, I’ve come to observe that this is the way things are between many denominations that are close but not exactly alike. And I think it’s true in politics as well. We often feel most distant from those with whom we have only slight disagreement.

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Nineteen Reasons Baptists Should Stop Voting on Stuff

I’m not seriously calling for the abolition of voting among churches, just a severe reduction in the practice. I’m a strong believer in the autonomy of the local church, but I’m the first to admit, I don’t like church “business.”

I was once the Pastor of a church in central Arkansas that had battled years of political scheming and the resulting resentment. We once moved an old metal desk out of the auditorium into a side room and I got in huge trouble because the moving of the desk wasn’t voted on! On the basis of this and dozens of other frustrating experiences, here are some reasons I think we should vote not to vote on so much stuff…


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  1. Voting never brings unity, it actually calls for division. Who is for and who is against?
  2. Voting is democratic – government by the people. Church should be theocratic – government by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Voting plays right to the flesh and personal preferences. We typically vote what we want or prefer, regardless of what God wants or what leaders are leading us to do.
  4. Voting gives equal weight to every member, regardless of investment in ministry.
  5. Voting leads us to believe that the majority must be right. According to some presidential elections, that obviously isn’t true (I’ll leave you to sort out which ones make my case).
  6. Voting gives the impression that a plurality of approval is the same as unity. It’s not. One deeply hurt family prevents real “unity.”
  7. Voting supersedes God’s intended order of leadership within the structure of the local church.
  8. Voting risks friendships needlessly.
  9. Voting equals leadership by polls. Since when did Jesus ever ask the audience their opinion? Even with His shepherd’s heart, Jesus never polled the sheep to find out which direction to go.
  10. Voting doesn’t work too well for Congress!
  11. Voting is man-made, there isn’t a single scriptural example. And Mattathias is not an example (Acts 1).
  12. Voting keeps us business-minded, not ministry-minded.
  13. Voting suggests the church has a political side. It’s the only time we really see power plays within God’s family.
  14. Voting is governed by rules but church is governed by relationships.
  15. Voting creates confusion and invites the opinions of 15, or 150, or 1500 viewpoints. No real problems are ever solved.
  16. Hanging chads.
  17. Democrats.
  18. Republicans.
  19. People were pretty much unanimous to crucify Jesus.

You’ve got to admit, I have at least a dozen good points, right? What’s your vote?

The Lord Who Heals and the People Who Worship

I must confess, as a Baptist, it took me a rather long time to come to understand the healing nature of God. We Baptists, as Adrian Rogers put it, “believe in miracles, but trust in Jesus.” I still believe this is best. But I also freely admit that in our reaction to the extremism of “healing evangelists” like Binny Hinn and other obvious hucksters and false prophets, that we have a tendency to write off all supposed healings as a mere charade.

Scripture, however, clearly teaches that the Great Physician, through His miraculous touch, heals the bodies of many people. Such was the case for the entire camp of Israelites in the wilderness when they reached the bitter waters of Marah. I’m inclined to believe that these poisonous waters made many of the people quite ill. So God steps into the picture, sweetens the waters, and heals the people. So He reveals to them another title for Himself – Jehovah who heals you.

Fast-forward about fifteen hundred years to Matthew, chapter fifteen. A Gentile woman comes to Jesus and His disciples, begging for a demon to be cast out of her daughter. I am especially moved by her form of worship. First, the text declares that she “cried out to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is demon-possessed.'” Amazingly, “He answered her not a word.” She chases God and He delights in the pursuit. She was apparently persistent for the disciples asked Jesus to dismiss her, saying, “for she cries out after us.”

Jesus continues to stonewall her by explaining that He was sent with Israel as His first priority, so why should He perform miracles for a Gentile woman? His remaining just beyond her reach is really an attempt to lead her on in her pursuit of the Almighty, and of course it works. “Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!'”

Instead of responding to her cry, Jesus argues that He really shouldn’t be casting such great miracles before the dogs of the Gentiles. She wisely continues her pursuit, presenting a responding argument that as a dog, she’ll gladly take the crumbs that fall to her. What a great lesson she teaches us. Our worship must always have a heartfelt ring of “Whatever, whenever, however God, just bless me!” to it. So He gives in and heals her, thrilled at her great and faith-filled pursuit. Oh, for such demanding hunger that argues with God for His blessings!

In the next paragraph, Matthew records for us that multitudes came to Him and were healed, “so the multitude marveled when they say the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.”

Jesus is the Great Physician, the mighty Healer of the children of men. I find it sad how we overlook the miraculous nature of God. We like to bring Him down to our level. “Well, you know I just think that in modern times, He heals through modern medicine…” Yes, He invented all of it and yes, He uses it, but let us never forget to look for the miraculous and to ask, to beg, to plead for His blessing.

I had a conversation a couple of years ago with a good friend who used to sit under my preaching every week, but who had moved to another town, gotten married, and attended a church of a different denomination. He related to me the story of a funeral that he attended. As he watched the mourners pass the casket to pay their last respects, his heart cried out within him, “Why did nobody ask God even once to heal her?”

Our answer, as good traditional Baptists, might be, “Well, it was just her time, it just wasn’t God’s will to heal her.” Though my friend and I may not agree on all things, I support his question. Why do we no think to ask, to beg, to plead with a worshipful heart to the Almighty Healer to perform miracles. I don’t believe He will always heal, for people do get sick and die, but shouldn’t we at least ask Him?

The theological argument that has arisen from this issue relates to the atonement, and whether or not physical healing for all of God’s people was purchased at the cross or not. I think it’s a moot point either way. The cross proves He heals in the ultimate way, spiritually and eternally. Healing didn’t necessarily have to be purchased, in the sense of a financial transaction, by His atoning death. He was already able to heal, but His atoning death was the ultimate picture of the great work of an Almighty Physician to heal the diseases of the spirit, the soul, and the body.

I think we have naturalized God and have forgotten that He’s a God of tremendous power, who is overwhelmed with compassion, and who desires to give unspeakable peace and joy to His children. He is just as alive and well today as He was in the days of Moses and Jesus. As the old song puts it, “He is able to deliver thee!” So ask, pray, beg, be an intercessor, anoint with oil, believe that He will work miracles, but ultimately trust His decisions no matter what.

Thank God For the BMA of America

I grew up in a staunchly conservative Southern Baptist church, where I first heard the gospel and received Christ as my Savior. I was baptized by Doug Riley, a man who was committed to the faithful proclamation of God’s inerrant Word. Many of my heroes in the faith are or were Southern Baptist leaders.

I have benefitted greatly from W. A. Criswell’s heart for the preaching of the Word of God in its perfect entirety. I’ve been inspired to be a more wise and well-equipped leader by Dr. Adrian Rogers. The scholarly works of A. T. Robertson and John Broadus have taught me much about preaching and about the message of the New Testament. I’m thankful also for many of today’s leading Southern Baptists who are holding a firm line on having a strong commitment to an orthodox belief in the Scriptures as God’s inerrant self-revelation.

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Standing in Confidence

“And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”—2 Timothy 4:18

Do you stand in spiritual confidence today? A couple of days ago a young lady stopped by our office to ask for some gas money. After giving her what little cash we had on hand I asked her if she was sure that she had a relationship with Christ or if she was going to heaven. She suddenly plopped down in my office chair with a sigh and stated plainly, “No, I really don’t know at all.”

I often wonder how it is that one could be content to live every day with no real certainty of eternal life. With the possibility of judgment and hell in front of us, how can we ignore the issue of making sure of our eternal fate? Paul faced the end of his life with tremendous confidence, but notice the source of that confidence – “The Lord shall deliver me… and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom…”

This is really the essence of being saved and beginning the Christian life – trusting the Lord alone. And as we Baptists like to say, “once saved, always safe;” but not because of our own goodness, but because the One who saves, also keeps!