God's Glory and Transition

Dear BFC Family,

It’s with bittersweet emotion that I write this letter to you. Baptist Fellowship has been my home for the past 10 years. Rachel has spent her entire life here at Baptist Fellowship, and we are both eternally grateful for the time that God has given us here. God saved me in this church, he called me to pastoral ministry while I was in this church, and now I’m writing to you to tell you how God is sending me from this church on His mission to make disciples. 

Two years ago the Hebron Church of Hope received the news that their pastor would be resigning to follow God’s calling to lead a church in South Carolina. The elders of that church approached Baptist Fellowship to ask for help in pulpit supply. Our church answered that call and met a sister church’s need. I preached there on and off for over a year. In August I applied for the position and started an application and interview process that lasted a few months. In November I met with the elders of the Hebron Church of Hope where I found out that the search committee had voted to present me as the candidate for Lead Pastor. Shortly after that I informed the Elders of Baptist Fellowship of the Lord’s leading and provision. With their blessing, I accepted this opportunity.  Sunday, December 3rd, I preached at Hebron Church of Hope and following the service the church unanimously voted me to become their next Lead Pastor. I will begin serving January 1st, 2018. 

Rachel and I want to thank God for you. Thank you for the love and support that you have shown us in the 5 years that I have served this church on staff. I want to thank the elders of Baptist Fellowship for allowing me the great privilege to serve this body and to work alongside them in the ministry of teaching and prayer. I want to thank the parents of our church who have worked with us in our student ministry. Thank you to our youth ministry team. You guys are absolute champions and have been such a blessing to Rachel and I. Thank you to the students that we have worked with. Words cannot begin to express how thankful I am for all of the times you have made me laugh, cry, and take pride in your growth in the Lord. Thank you to the staff at Baptist Fellowship. You have taught me so much. Thank you to Brian, for mentoring me, for your gentle corrections, for cheering me on, and for leading by example.  

Rachel and I are thankful to God for allowing us to serve His church here at Baptist Fellowship. We are thankful to God for keeping us in this area. We ask you to continue to pray for us and pray with us. We’re down the street cheering you on, and as the Lord provides we hope to continue our partnership in the gospel. May the Lord bless Baptist Fellowship and Hebron Church of Hope as we obey the great commission. 

“Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.” 

3 John 5-8, ESV

Sincerely,

Pastor Jordan and Rachel Brown

Forgiveness and Matthew 6:15.

I received another great question.  This one, like the question regarding the Trinity, is probably best answered by blog than by sermon.

Why does Matthew 6:15 say that God will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others?

This is a very good question, there are other passages where Jesus predicates God’s forgiveness of us on our forgiveness of others.

"Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; (Luke 6:37 ESV)

However, the bible also gives us other testimonies of scripture like Col 3:12-13 where Paul predicates our forgiveness of others on the God’s forgiveness of us.

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:12-13 ESV)

Left with these scriptures we can easily get into a chicken/egg dilemma on which came first, God’s forgiveness of us or our forgiveness of others.

In answering the question I am going to appeal to what is called (in fancy pants theological circles) as the Rule of Faith.  The Rule of Faith states that when we have some question on what a scripture means or what a scripture implies, we look to other passages in scripture for the explanation.  That keeps the bible as the supreme source of our wisdom and also keeps us from subjecting the bible to fallible understandings of tradition. 

I think the following scripture relieves the tension.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,  having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.  And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,  by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:11-14 ESV)

 

This passage tells us that God forgave us our trespasses when he canceled the record of debt that stood against us, nailing it to the cross.  The cross is the provision for our forgiveness with God.  So, in one sense, we have all been forgiven of our sins long before we ever committed those sins, indeed long before we were ever born, insofar as we are Christians.  In another sense, that forgiveness did not get applied to our heart until we sought God’s forgiveness through faith and entered into a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. In even another sense, forgiveness is something we regularly apply to our lives as we live imperfect lives and regularly seek the transforming power of God’s grace through our confession of our sins as 1 John 1:9 reminds us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)

If we are the kind of people who humbly recognize the graciousness of God in forgiving us before we were ever born, and who humbly recognize that God forgave us when we came to Christ and who humbly seek forgiveness as God brings to mind the parts of our lives that still need the cleansing of unrighteousness; then we are going to be the kind of people that are ready to forgive others when they come to us in humility, seeking our forgiveness.  If we aren’t, then this reveals to us that we have a very serious spiritual problem that needs to be dealt with.  It doesn’t neccesarily mean that we aren’t saved (though a person who is persistently and characteristically unforgiving should seriously look at the authenticity of their faith), nor does it negate the truth of Col 1:13-14 which says that we have the justifying work of forgiveness when we come to Christ.

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)

As the study note in the ESV Study Bible on Matthew 6:15 suggests:

“Jesus reemphasizes the importance of forgiving others, indicating that there is a direct relationship between having been forgiven by God and the forgiveness that his disciples of necessity must extend to others. As in v. 12forgive your trespasses here refers to the restoration of personal relationship with God, not to initial justification." (ESV Study Bible Notation)

It does mean that until we demonstrate that God’s Spirit has worked in our hearts so that we become forgiving people, we will not fully experience the transforming power of God’s forgiveness for us.

Keep the good questions coming.

Grace and Peace,

 

BCK  ><>

Questions About the Trinity

How can Jesus be both God, and God’s Son?

This was an excellent question raised by someone who emailed in during our "Hard Questions" sermon series.

Many have concluded that it is impossible for Jesus to be both God and God's son because it is an impossibility for everyone else, and thus there are serious questions and reservations when it comes to embracing the truths of the Trinity.  I can certainly understand; there is literally no other being in the universe or beyond that shares the unique characteristics of our Triune God.  Every other being in heaven and on earth has a one to one relationship between the aspect of being and the aspect of person.

I am one being with one person.  You are one being with one person.  Every other being you will ever meet (except God) has one being and one person.  Since our uniform experience tells us that being and person are synonymous we have a hard time wrapping our mind around a Being (such as God) Who can (and indeed is) One Being and Three Persons.

Nevertheless, if this is what we find must in the scriptures to be true, then such a unique conclusion must be embraced.  If our study in scripture warrants, we must allow the bible to expand the rules we have created through our experience.  The bible does just that.

First, we have to understand what the bible teaches about the nature of God.  Then we have to know what the bible says about the distinctions between the Father and the Son.

The bible uncompromisingly teaches that there is one God.  Christians are monotheists.  We believe, and rightly so, that there is only one God.  We do not have three gods, that is a misunderstanding of what Christians believe and a perversion of what the bible teaches.

We can confidently affirm this truth because of what the bible says about God being One.

"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV)

Israel was told that there is only one God and that it was fundamentally a violation of the first commandment to believe in any other god.

"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  "You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:2-3 ESV)”

This is the consistent and ubiquitous testimony of the bible as we can see from Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 44…

"Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god." (Isaiah 44:6 ESV)

We also believe that God is one God comprised of three Persons.

We believe this based upon the testimony of scripture that not only is the Father God (Theos in Greek) so also is the Son.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (Theos), and the Word was God (Theos)." (John 1:1 ESV, Greek Parenthesis)

We know that the Word that John is writing about is Jesus because of what John says a few verses later.

"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 ESV)

John 14 tells us that the Word, the Son, Who is the Second Person of the Triune God, became flesh, thus uniting a Divine nature with a Human nature in the person of Jesus. 

Nevertheless, the Father/Son relationship did not come about through the birth of Christ, The second Person of the Trinity existed in a Father/Son relationship with the Father in eternity past.  We know this because the Father sends the Son.

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law," (Galatians 4:4 ESV)

So it is indeed possible for Jesus to be both God and the Son of God due to the Trinitarian nature of our God. 

Keep the good questions coming.

BCK ><>

Worship on a Wednesday?

Happy Wednesday,

As promised this is the first of three blog posts that will address the three points of Sunday’s sermon.

The first question that I asked was , “Are you a Sunday morning worshipper or a Sunday morning worship spectator?”

While this question is worth answering for Sunday mornings alone we can also ask the question about the rest of the week.  Do we worship the Lord throughout the week or are we standing by, watching the Lord being worshipped.?

You may be thinking, “but we only have one weekly worship service, when else can I worship?

Great question.

The answer is that God is worshipped all day, every day by what He has created.

(Psalm 19:1-6 ESV) To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. 

Jesus also reminds us that if we are silent, the stones themselves will cry out in worship (Luke 19:40).  We need only to accept the invitation of all of God’s creation to participate in the ongoing worship of the Lord.

Every day is a chance for us to come before God and to offer ourselves in worship.  Perhaps we have grown so accustomed to worshipping God in a certain place that we forget that the whole earth is filled with His glory (Isaiah 6:3).

It is interesting the way that different cultures have responded to God’s invitation to worship Him all day, every day.

The ancient Celts would incorporate prayer and song into everyday tasks, some of the Celtic hymns in our hymnals were meant to be sung during daily chores and were likely sung more on any given Wednesday than they were on any given Sunday.

In the unfortunate era of our own countries history of slavery we see the spiritual music sung by slaves as they went about their daily routines.

In both examples, we see examples of God’s children accepting the invitation to join God’s creation worship. Every day we will have the choice to worship the Lord along with His creation or sit back and watch while the heavens declare the glory of God.

Freedom to Pray

On the National Day of Prayer, I am grateful for the right, in our fine country, to gather together as God's people to pray for His kingdom, His church, our nation, communities and families.

I am grateful because I see just how tenuous those freedoms are, how hard they were to come by and how easily then can be taken.

Freedom is tenuous.  Freedom has ALWAYS been tenuous.  Throughout the history of our nation freedom has always needed to be guarded by the diligence of the people.

Today we hear rumblings of the curtailing of that freedom.  Just last month a prominent presidential candidate, speaking of her desire to see pregnant moms have greater access to abortion, said: “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed."

Religious beliefs have to be changed…!?

Changed by whom? 

How, would one go about forcing people to change their beliefs?

Why must they change in the first place? Don’t people have the right to their beliefs even if others don’t like them?

 The very creation of the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights was out of a necessity to amend the Constitution in order to safeguard the rights of individuals against those who believe that “religious beliefs have to be changed.”

This is what the First Amendment says:

" Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

We have the right to be free from the prohibition of speech even if that speech offends the political sensibilities of some.  The bible tells us that we should not unnecessarily offend others as Proverbs reminds us that “one who loves to offend, loves strife… (Prov 17:19).  Nevertheless, the bible is replete with examples of those who did not love to offend but were willing to speak the truth even when the truth wasn’t popular and they did so because God’s people have always been called to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15).

As we pray today, let us do so both gracefully and truthfully.  Let us not fail to rejoice in the blessings of our country nor shy away from acknowledging  where our nation has strayed from God’s expressed will. And then let us petition God for grace for ourselves as “all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23) and also for others, as Paul wrote, “Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 2:25).

 And let us also pray that God will continue to grant us the freedom to peacefully assemble at flagpoles, town greens, and in our places of worship to petition God for the changing of our own hearts and the heart of this nation because there is something far more ancient and binding than the current political climate and that is the word of God.  There is Someone we ought to fear offending far more than the loudest voices in politics and He is the Author of life.

The Lord God is the one Who truly gives freedom.  As the apostle Paul wrote: “For Freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Just as Paul reminded the Galatians that there were obligated to refuse to accept the hindrances that men sought to place on their religious freedom so to we are called to do refuse to allow our freedom of faith and worship to be abridged.

And we are called to do so because governments don’t create religious rights for the citizenry.  Governments merely recognize the inalienable rights that the Creator had endowed upon His human creation. When that government does so it will likely find favor with God and when that government refuses to do so it rightly invites God's wrath.

So, “Lord, please grant favor to America, my home, for she yet recognizes the freedoms you give to us, your creation.  And Lord, please continue to bless America for as long as the bells of liberty ring.  For the voices of prayer and praise of Your people will rejoice with the accompaniment of those bells, but if – some sad day - the bells of liberty refuse to toll, then the prayers and praises of You people will still be heard because governments never have given people the right to pray and praise, that precious gift of liberty came from You, Lord, and we refuse to be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

 -+- Brian