Monday, January 25, 2010

Church Discipline

It seems that churches have often gotten it wrong when it comes to church discipline. Either the church discipline is too strict, or there is none at all. Properly balanced discipline is the tricky part.

Another consideration is that much church discipline is carried out quietly, patiently, and behind the scenes. Yes, sometimes a person needs to be rebuked before all, but not as often as you may think.

As a pastor, I’m concerned that if we get too particular about church discipline, I might get kicked out myself.

If you think your church or denomination is a little harsh today, consider a Baptist church of the early 1800s.

Bethel Baptist Church was the first evangelical church west of the Mississippi River. It was also the first Baptist church in Missouri. Bethel was organized in 1806 and reorganized in 1809. It was in an area known as Tywappity Bottom, about 10 miles south of Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

The following are some interesting entries in the church records concerning church discipline:

March 9, 1811 - “The church met in conference. Brother Matthews and C. Thompson to talk with Sisters McDaniel and Watkins for their neglect of church meetings.”

October 12, 1811 - “John Reynolds excluded for joining the Mason Lodge. Also Ann McDaniel for insulting the church and violating the rules.”

December 15, 1815 - “Brethren T. Bull and Isaac Sheppard to write to Brother William Johnson on the arm of Turkey Creek concerning card playing.”

November 9, 1816 - “Resolved that Sister Hannah Edwards be allowed to wear gold earrings for the benefit of her eyes.”
The church did not believe in elaborate jewelry, but it was believed at the time that gold rings helped the eyes; hence, church action upon this matter.

June 8, 1822 - “Brother Ezekial Hill laid in a complaint against himself for killing a deer on Sunday, and after acknowledgment of his fault, was forgiven.”

And you thought the Church Covenant and Baptist Faith & Message 2000 were tough?

-Reference: This Day in Baptist History II by David L. Cummins & E. Wayne Thompson, BJU Press, Greenville, SC; and God in American History by A. Lloyd Collins, Christ for the World Publishers, Orlando, Florida.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, January 25, AD 2010.

More articles in lower right margin. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is God Judging Haiti?; Part 2

Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. -Jesus; Luke 13:4-5

6. Unless God is strongly, plainly speaking to you, you are probably not qualified to determine whether or not God is judging a nation.
Don’t go out of your way to pronounce the judgment of God. Let God take care of that. Unless God powerfully speaks to you about the issue, leave it in His hands.

7. We don’t know all the workings and judgment of God.
I heard a story of a tornado that came to a town and blew away the beer joint. The good Christian people quietly acknowledged this as an act of God. The next week a tornado came and blew away the Baptist church.

What is the moral to this story? I don’t know. Maybe just that, sometimes we need to keep our mouths shut for a while.

Certainly we know, according to the Bible, what is right and wrong. But we don’t always know the details of God’s judgment in our present day. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

8. Sometimes, at least from our perspective, a natural disaster is just a natural disaster.
Build a house in a flood plain, and eventually you will get flooded. Don’t insulate your water pipes, and sooner or later a hard freeze will make you pay. Part of living in this sin torn world is that we suffer crime, disease, natural disaster, death.

9. Is God judging Haiti?
I don’t know that He is. Neither do I know that He isn’t. It is wrong to claim God spoke when He didn’t. It is also wrong to claim God did not speak when He did.

A tragedy happens to someone and they say they think God is judging them. Many preachers and Christians quickly, without thinking or praying, say, “O no, God’s not judging you.” But how do you know God is not judging them, or trying to get their attention?

I have learned in those situations to just wait, be quiet, and hear what the person has to say. For all I know, God may be judging them and they are properly under conviction.

Neither do I say, unless God specially reveals something to me, that they are being judged by God. Tragedy happens to those who are in the center of God’s will. Ever read the Old Testament book of Job? Remember the man born blind? (John 9:1-3). Be cautious about pointing at someone with problems and saying God is judging them. God may next allow the same thing in your life.

But God does still work in our history and in our lives. God does still judge and discipline. God judges individuals and He judges nations.

10. Regardless of the details, we are to help and pray for Haiti.
God so loves the world (John 3:16). We are to go into all the world and share the Gospel and the love of Christ.

I don’t directly know whether God is judging Haiti. I don’t directly know if God was judging New Orleans, Louisiana, or Bolivar and Highlands, Texas with the recent hurricanes. But I do know that God can bring good out of evil. He can bring salvation out of chaos. I know that whether it is Haiti or the United States, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).

God loves the Haitians every bit as much as He loves us sinful, rotten, unworthy Americans. We are to love them too. Let God worry about judgment. I thank God that Americans are showing their love for the Haitians. America is one of the most generous nations on earth. That is one of the reasons God has blessed our country.

What can we do? What should we do?
* Pray for Haiti.
* Pray that God may be glorified in this tragedy.
One of the best things Southern Baptists do is Disaster Relief. Pray for all the relief workers, but especially pray for our SBC Disaster Relief workers. They not only minister to the hurting, they do so in the name of Jesus Christ.
* Give to the relief efforts. There are a number of worthy relief organizations, but one of the best is SBC Disaster Relief. Give through your Southern Baptist Church with a check designated for “SBC Disaster Relief.” Or, you can go directly to the International Mission Board (imb.org), the North American Mission Board (namb.net), or your state convention and give.
* Keep up with the Disaster Relief workers at Baptist Press (bpnews.net) or through your state paper (texanonline.net). Both are in the right side bar of this blog.

May God bless and bring salvation to Haiti.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, January 19, AD 2010. Part 2 of 2

Is God Judging Haiti?; Part 1

The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. For the needy shall not always be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever. Arise, O LORD, do not let man prevail; let the nations be judged in Your sight. Put them in fear, O LORD, that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah -Psalm 9:17-20

There is a story that on August 14, 1791 slaves in Haiti, in a voodoo (or voudou) like service, promised the devil if he would deliver them from slavery, the ex-slaves would serve Satan. Some historians deny this ever happened. Other historians say it really took place. Also, in 2003 Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide made voodoo an official religion. Some say this is all or part of why Haiti is impoverished while other nations have prospered. Haitians have gone from slavery to dictatorships and grinding poverty. Now, a devastating earthquake has killed tens of thousands. The suffering is unimaginable.

Hence, the question, is God judging Haiti through this earthquake? May I offer a few thoughts.

1. God does judge.
If you believe the Bible and take it seriously, you have to agree that God actively rules and judges in our world today. One of the most love filled books of the Bible also acknowledges there is a sin unto death (1 John 5:16). Revelation, the last book of the Bible, tells us of some of the final judgments of God on this wicked, rebellious world.

2. God judges nations both directly and indirectly.
At times God directly judges and punishes sin. He not only does this in the life to come, but right here and now. The same God who judged Sodom, Gomorrah, Judah, Israel, Babylon is present and in charge today.

Indirectly, God allows the consequences that come from sinful behavior. Like fire, play with sin and you’re going to get burned.

3. When God judges a people, innocents also suffer.
I’ve heard some say about disaster, “This can’t be a judgment of God, because an innocent child was hurt.” But that is incorrect. The innocent often suffer when the guilty are punished. Do you think there were no children in Judah when God brought his judgment upon them?

For example, a man robs a bank and goes to jail. His little girl is now without a father and she suffers greatly. She suffers emotionally and lives in poverty. It is not her fault, it’s her dad’s fault; but she suffers.

4. God does not always judge equally, and at the same time period. At least not from what we can see, from our vantage point.
His judgments are sure and perfect, but we cannot always see that. So God judges one nation, and another nation gets away with it. Or, so it seems.

One may say, this can’t be the judgment of God, because He did not send an earthquake to Nazi Germany. Well, God does not work according to your schedule or your opinions.

God judged Ananias and Sapphira for lying (Acts 5:1-11); but He does not always kill someone who lies. Else we’d have a lot more dead people on our hands. God works in His own time and His own way; without consulting you or me.

5. God sometimes leads a prophet to pronounce the judgment of God upon a person, a people, a nation.
A prophet told the Assyrians, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, John Baptist thundered the judgments of God. God used prophets; He still uses them today.

A prophet tells us things we don’t want to hear. He is not usually elected most popular. He is often hated and despised.

On the other hand, frankly there is a thin line between a true prophet and just being obnoxious. Scripture warns against false prophets. We are to evaluate them by God’s sure Word, by their fruits, by what other respected, discerning, Christian leaders say, and by the guidance of the Holy Sprit. Then it is left to us to discern whether that person is a true or false prophet.

It is wrong to follow a false prophet; it is also wrong to reject and mock a true prophet.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, January 19, AD 2010. Part 1 of 2

Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Review of "Alcohol Today" by R. L. Sumner

Following is a Book Review by Dr. R. L. Sumner, editor of The Biblical Evangelist.

Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence, by Peter Lumpkins; Hannibal Books, Garland, TX; 3 Parts, 12 Chapters, 172 pages; $14.95, Paper.

This book is as anti-social drinking as you can get. No one is going to read this one and misunderstand what the author is saying. [Apparent reference to Bob Jones University claiming the “pro-moderate drinking" book by one of their professors was misunderstood. Sumner unfavorably reviewed it. BJU has since withdrawn the book. -DRB] (In short, there is absolutely no chance of him being confused as advocating social drinking!) He starts by explaining why he is writing (alcohol destroys), goes on to show how a once strong church (almost every denomination) that opposed booze so strongly is now endorsing ‘social’ drinking, and then examines the Prohibition era. And that is just Part One.

Incidentally note this comment on Prohibition: “The think-tank behind Prohibition was not filled with Bubbas from south Georgia. Instead university presidents, seminary professors, medical professionals, linguists, Classics scholars, and New Testament and Old Testament theologians and scholars alike argued tirelessly in professional journals, books, pamphlets, and speeches not only the personal virtue of abstaining from intoxicating beverages but also the public vice of manufacturing, distributing, selling, and consuming alcoholic beverages for social and recreational purposes…” That is not exactly how the anti-prohibitionists of today describe those days, is it?

By the way, former U.S. Health & Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano, not exactly a Baptist fundamentalist (he was a Roman Catholic) described it: “During prohibition, admission to mental health institutions for alcoholic psychosis dropped 60 percent, arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct went down 50 percent, welfare agencies reported significant declines in cases due to alcohol-related family problems, and the death rate from impure alcohol did not rise. Nor did Prohibition generate a crime wave. Homicide increased at a higher rate between 1900 and 1920 than during Prohibition, and organized crime was well established in the cities before 1920.” The booze boys have been lying to you about that period haven’t they?

This is followed by five chapters (Part Two) giving five positions on consuming intoxicants: hedonism (pleasure; if it feels good, do it) - as the author puts it, “the logical deduction of culture without Christ;” think before you drink (the popular reference of alcohol manufacturers, answered by reference to what the inerrant Word of God says on the subject, both directly and indirectly); the Christian moral worldview (what God has revealed in His Word, His revelation about righteousness, which is absolute); the wisdom view (which can be argued compellingly, perhaps, but offers no moral instruction for abstinence); and, total abstinence (God’s idea; nowhere does moderation appear in Scripture for anything wrong as a moral principle). The latter point includes a discussion of the medical use of alcohol (such, for example, as in cough syrup) and drinking alcoholic content for pleasure (admittedly, there is not much pleasure in a tablespoon of ugly tasting cough syrup). Obviously, some of these views overlap, such as two and four and three and five.

Part Three is the main part of the volume: what the Bible says about drink, a special look at the Old Testament teaching, and a complete chapter on John 2 and the wine at the wedding (we loved his subtitle for this chapter: Liberating Jesus as the Moderationist Model).

The volume is loaded with excellent quotes. For example: “…to tell a young person to go ahead and drink is like telling a fox, after you’ve locked him in the henhouse, he can touch the chickens but cannot taste the chickens.” While moderationists try to see a happy buzz in God’s comments about the blessing in wine (for example in Psalm 104), Lumpkins notes: “…assuming that alcohol enhances joy in any genuine biblical sense - is a mistake. In fact, alcohol is a depressant; it dulls the senses and therefore diminishes what could be called a conscious enjoyment of the provision, despite any tipsy feeling to the contrary” (emphasis added).

Bringing the second law of thermodynamics into it, the author notes about crushed grapes: “Fermenting wine produces the horrid, foul odor of rot and decay - a particularly formidable challenge the ancients combated.” Great care had to be taken to keep each batch from ending up as sour vinegar, unfit for consumption! “Thanking God for intoxicating beverages is like thanking God for molded bread.” And he quotes the 19th century scholar J. J. Owen as saying any claim our Lord drank any form of intoxicating wine as “malicious libel upon His character.” Amen!

In the back of the book, listed as Appendices, the author has a study on pertinent annotated texts (four from the OT and two from the NT), a Glossary, and Historical References (a dozen, including Ovid, Aristotle, Nicander, Pliny and Cato the Elder). There is also a 6-page listing of works cited.

The Foreword is by Dr. Jerry Vines, who gives a ringing endorsement. Other commendations come from Drs. Paige Patterson, O. S. Hawkins, Hayes Wicker, Jack Graham, Junior Hill and other prominent Christian leaders.

This is a great book, one we can completely endorse. In fact, if you don’t get it you will be making a major mistake, in our judgment.

-by R. L. Sumner, The Biblical Evangelist, January/February, 2010. [For a free subscription (they do, however, accept donations!) to The Biblical Evangelist see the icon in the right margin of this blog.]

Alcohol Today by Peter Lumpkins can be obtained directly from Hannibal Books, Amazon.com, or ordered from any bookstore. Order it today!

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, January 11, AD 2010.

Related Articles at Gulf Coast Pastor Articles (Labels) under "Alcohol" in lower right hand margin.

Why I Support the Baptist Association, Part 2

Accountability
The local Baptist Association has no desire to run your business. But a Baptist church needs other churches to compare notes with, see what other churches are doing, and realize that they are not alone. You can learn much about Baptist doctrine and practice by cooperating in the Association. Sometimes they can even keep someone from going off the deep end in doctrine, policy, or legal matters. Believe it or not, we all need that accountability.

On the other hand, every church has its own personality. For example, Southern Baptists have traditional and contemporary worship styles and everything in between. Those details (and many others) are for you and your church to decide, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Help / Assistance
Help, whether formal or informal, is available in the Baptist Association. They want you to succeed. What can you get at an Executive Board meeting of the Association? The latest joke to share with your congregation. The sermon illustration or outline a fellow pastor used last Sunday. The best new Soul-Winning program around. A study book you can teach Sunday or Wednesday nights. What’s available in Sunday School, doctrinal, or new believer literature. Good Christian fellowship.

An Association may offer conferences throughout the year on topics such as the Doctrinal Study, January Bible Study, Evangelism Rally, Sunday School Worker Training, Vacation Bible School Training, Church Legal Matters, Deacons, Seniors, Youth Work, Evangelism, Ministers Fellowship, etc.

Having difficulty in your church? If you pastor a Baptist church you are! The Executive Director, as well as other pastors in the Association are ready and willing to pray with you, give you confidential counsel, or to just provide a listening ear. Often, they have “been there and done that” and can offer very helpful advice and support.

A Place to Serve
Whether you are a pastor, church staff minister, or a layman in your church, you can find a place to serve, to lead, and to fellowship with neighboring churches. Share your knowledge and encouragement with fellow believers in the Association. For young preachers, it’s a great place to get to know other preachers, and receive opportunities to preach. You need the Association; the Association needs you.

The local Baptist Association began in North America before the national SBC or state conventions were even formed. Then as now they offer assistance and encouragement. Not every church can give large amounts or percentages to the mission work of the Association. But every church can give something. Giving to the Baptist Association is another way of strengthening God’s work in your area, and ultimately throughout the world.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, January 11, AD 2010.

Other Articles:
Why I Support the Baptist Association, Part 1
Basic Baptist Doctrines / Beliefs

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Why I Support the Baptist Association, Part 1

What is a Baptist Association?
A local group of Baptist churches that have joined together to assist each other and to carry on the work of Jesus Christ in their county or area. They are a democratic body that meets quarterly (or monthly) and also has an annual Convention. They meet to conduct business, assist each other, and for fellowship. They may have other fellowship and educational meetings throughout the year.

Fellowship
Pastors need good Christian fellowship with other pastors. There are some things a pastor needs to discuss that can only be understood by another preacher. Churches, staff, and laymen need fellowship with others. The local Baptist Association gives that opportunity for Christian fellowship on a regular basis.

Missions
“We can do together what no church can do alone.” By giving to the Association you are helping provide numerous ministries. You are especially helping the smaller churches and the newer missions. You are reaching out to your county and area in ways you could never do alone. Missions do not just include state and worldwide work. It also involves your church ministry and the churches and missions in your local area. The Association stands ready to assist churches in starting new churches and ministries.

Association Ministries include areas like Student Work; Christian Women’s Job Service Corp; Mission Service Corp; Prayer; Ethnic; Senior Adult; Singles; Counseling; Youth; Encouraging, assisting, training church staff; and more. Associations vary greatly in size and participation. Some can offer more ministries than others. All can provide assistance.

Information
Want to know what church, Sunday School, and training literature is available? Don’t understand some aspect of Baptist, mission, or evangelistic work? Having trouble in your church and need some advice or encouragement? Your local Baptist Association can help. The Executive Director (aka Director of Missions), Secretaries (aka Ministry Assistants), and other workers and volunteers are there to help you. If they don’t know, they can probably tell you who does know.

Encampment
Many Associations own, or support a Christian Encampment. An encampment is one of the most effective ministries to lead youth and adults to the Lord, teach them, and bring them closer to Jesus. There is something special about getting away from it all and joining with other believers to grow in grace. Many crucial decisions have been made for the Lord at camp.

Encouragement
Pastors get lonely, discouraged, stressed out. They sometimes feel they are the only ones out there. Time and again I have laughed, learned, and been encouraged by joining with other preachers of the Gospel in my local Association. My preacher dad gave this advice to young preachers, “Get to know an older pastor in your area that you can respect. Go to him often for advice.” He also advised older preachers to nurture friendships with younger pastors. The same is true for Youth Ministers, Music Ministers, etc. We need each other. And that need can be met through the Association.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, January 5, AD 2010.

Why I Support the Baptist Association, Part 2