Saturday, March 28, 2009

Interview with Cindy, widow of Pastor Fred Winters

In the following interview Cindy Winters gives a grace-filled testimony of the power of the gospel to enable believers to love their enemies. She tells of her prayers for the salvation of Terry Sedlacek, the murderer of her husband, who was gunned down while preaching March 8, 2009 in the church he pastored, First Baptist Church, Maryville, Illinois. Watch it and pray--for Cindy and her daughters, for Mr. Sedlacek and his family. And pray that believers everywhere will be empowered to exude this same hope and love through the power of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-48).
How can anyone do this? Only through the power of the gospel. Only as we have been forgiven are we empowered truly to forgive from the heart. Only through the power of a risen Savior can we have the hope of a future resurrection that releases us from the tyranny of present tragedies. May this testimony and display of God's grace in the gospel call each of us who name the Name of Christ to live more faithfully as citizens of heaven as we continue our pilgrimage on earth.

HT:Denny Burk

Friday, March 27, 2009

Reconsidering Calvin and Calvinism

The latest Founders Journal is out and the theme is "Reconsidering Calvin and Calvinism." The articles in this issue should disabuse any honest reader of history or theology of the caricatures that so often are promoted about the man and the views that are usually associated with his name. In this, the 500th anniversary of his birth, Calvin deserves an honest reassessment of hi life and teachings. This issue of the FJ hopes to make a modest contribution to that.

The full contents of each issue of the Founders Journal is place online about 6 months after its publication. You can subscribe to the journal to have it delivered to you as soon via snail mail as it comes out by going to the subscription page of our website and signing up. The journal is published quarterly and the annual subscription is only $20.00 ($25.00 outside the USA).

Following is a lineup of the contents of the current issue:
  • "Calvin the Evangelist" by Frank James III
  • "Calvin the Calvinist" by Erroll Hulse
  • "Calvin and the Atonement" by Tom Ascol
  • "Calvin on Missions" by Michael Haykin
  • "John and Idelette Calvin" by Michael and Victoria Haykin

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Promise and Power of God's Word

One of the great temptations in Christian life and ministry is to lose confidence in the Word of God. Among conservatives this usually happens subtly, not blatantly. No self-respecting evangelical would ever admit to such a loss of confidence, but too often that attitude is betrayed by the way that some minister.

It is easy, when little or no visible fruit is seen, to doubt whether the Word of God is enough in the work of evangelism. Is the gospel enough? Can we really trust the Spirit of God to use the Word of God to accomplish the purposes of God? What about when it seems like nothing is happening? When there is no visible fruit from sincere gospel labors?

The promises that God makes about His Word are true even when evidence seems to suggest otherwise. It is "living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrew 4:12) even when we cannot see it working in these ways. And the gospel remains the "power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16) regardless of how much or little the immediate, visible effects are. One of the outlandish and encouraging promises that God gives us about His Word is found in Isaiah 55:10-11, which says,
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
The Lord has recently given me several clear demonstrations of the truth of this promise. Over the last few weeks I have been contacted by people who sat under my preaching more than a decade ago, each with a unique story about the power of God's Word working in their lives. One of them is Gayle, who when I first met her was a practicing witch.

Thirteen years ago Gayle worked for one of our deacons, who later moved with his family to a Muslim country and helped plant the 1st evangelical church among an unreached people group. Sam and his family befriended her and faithfully witnessed to her. I also got to know Gayle and had several opportunities to explain the gospel to her. She was a follower of wicca, and proudly displayed a "Born Again Pagan" bumper sticker on her car. Gayle was always open and willing to talk about spiritual things until she finally understood what she was hearing.

After one worship service she was visibly shaken (and shaking). Her face was red and she was angry. She asked me, "Did I understand you to say that if I don't trust Jesus Christ, then I will go to hell?" I explained to her that she had indeed understood me correctly and that the fact that God had caused her to understand that was a display of His mercy and kindness to her, providing her an opportunity to repent and trust Christ. I'll never forget her response. She said, "I cannot believe the audacity of anyone who would make such a claim! Who do you think you are? I will never step foot in this church again!"

Over the ensuing years I have had sporadic contact with her. She was interested in the welfare of her former boss and his family, knowing that they were living in a dangerous place and would occasionally call to check on them. Our conversations were always polite, but she never allowed me to engage her about the state of her soul.

A couple of months ago Gayle called me to tell me the rest of the story. Over the last decade her life began to spiral out of control. In fact, she came to a point where she resolved to kill herself. With pills in hand, she decided inexplicably to walk down the street to a church before swallowing them. A maintenance worker saw her and began to talk to her. She eventually agreed to meet with a minister and ultimately came to trust Christ Jesus as Lord. She is now a faithful member in that church in a nearby city.

In our phone conversation she said, "You know, through the years I couldn't stop thinking about the things that you and Sam said to me. God has shown me how wrong I was and how right you and he were. I want to apologize to you and thank you for giving me God's Word." I rejoiced with her and encouraged her to keep growing in the Lord.

It would have been very possible for all this to have taken place without any news of it ever reaching me. I thank the Lord for His kindness in allowing me to know how His Word accomplished a saving work in Gayle's life more than a dozen years after it had initially been planted in her life.

How many other stories are there like this that could be told about the power of God's Word bearing fruit long after it was first planted or watered in a person's life? How many wayward children have returned to the Lord whom they once rejected and bowed in submission to His Lordship in obedience to the Word that was faithfully preached to them years earlier? How many more will yet return, in answer to the fervent prayers of moms and dads, perhaps even after the praying ones are silent in the grave?

What encouragement this truth ought to give to pastors, evangelists and witnessing and praying Christians everywhere! We must continue to preach, teach and share God's Word, trusting the Lord to do His work in own time. Who knows what testimonies might return to us in future years about the power of God's Word at work in imperceptible ways right now? And how many such testimonies will never be known until eternity?

So regardless of how much or how little fruit your evangelistic efforts are currently bearing, keep pressing on, with full confidence in the promise and power of God's Word. Let the Apostle Paul have the final word:
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Saturday, March 14, 2009

2009 Blog Madness

Tony Kummer is at it again with the 2009 version of Blog Madness. The following promo video is great, employing some classic images from last year when I narrowly won was defeated by my nemesis from Chicago, Steve McCoy. Of course, we have all recently been given a fresh reminder of how nasty Chicago politics can be, so in the interest of truth, justice and the American way (or at least truth and justice), go to SBC Voices and vote for your favorite blog. I am in the South Division, pitted against such heavy-weights as Ed Stetzer, sub.text, Alan Cross, Art Rogers and Bob Cleveland.

Remember, every vote counts. And, if done right, some votes count 3 or 4 times.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

W.A. Criswell, "The Bible Kind of Salvation"

When I first heard this sermon by W.A. Criswell more than 20 years ago I was wonderfully encouraged. Founders Ministries got permission to distribut hundreds of copies of this message on cassette tapes. Dr. Criswell was a great preacher. He could rightly be designated the "Grandfather of the Conservative Resurgence."

A friend recently alerted me to the fact that this sermon is available on youtube. It is so helpful (not to mention quotable) that I thought it would be great to have all 4 video sections available in one place.


EDIT: I just learned that the transcript for this sermon is available here from the Criswell Sermon Library.

Friday, March 06, 2009

What He Must Be: Can't Find One...Build One

My favorite chapter in Voddie Baucham's new book, What He Must Be...if He Wants to Marry My Daughter, is the last one, entitled, "Can't Find One...Build One." Citing studies that indicate that the adults in typical U.S. churches are comprised of 61% female and 39% male along with evidence that as many as 90% of the young men being raised in church will quit altogether by the time they reach 20, Baucham calls fathers of boys to invest themselves in the effort of raising godly young men.

The way that I have approached this concern with my own son and with other young men through the years is to challenge them to become the kind of men that the kind of women they hope to marry would desire to have as husbands. Fathers are called to be disciplers of their children (Ephesians 6:4) and a necessary part of that calling is for dads to teach their sons how to prepare to become husbands and fathers. Granted, some may called by God to permanent singleness, but they will be the exceptions, not the rule.

When Voddie writes about this issue he does so with biblical insights that have been forged in the furnace of being raised fatherless. There is no false idealism here, only the the passionate plea of a pastor and father who well-understands the challenges that are facing young men in our sexually confused culture. He challenges fathers of daughters to invest in young men to help them become marriageable.
We cannot expect young men in our culture to turn up as ready-made husbands. Our culture is broken. As a result, young men are broken. They do not have the tools they need. This is not always due to a lack of spiritual commitment. It is usually a result of a lack of teaching and discipleship. They just don't know what they dont know. As a result, fathers have to consider the possibility that they may, in a very real way, have to build their own son-in-law. Of course, this is not a problem for men with a multigenerational vision who view the work as an investment i their children's children (193).
This counsel is appropriate not only for men with daughters, but for all men who are thinking about the generations to follow. It is sound counsel for churches who should look for ways to evangelize, challenge and disciple the future men the Lord entrusts to them.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Abortion as gendercide: the brutal secret of feminism's unintended attack on women

As a Christian I grieve over the legalized slaughter of the innocents by medical professionals through the act of abortion. The culture of death that the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision hurried along has now a dominant element of our society. Yesterday, an abortion doctor was arrested in Miami under suspicion that his botched procedure on a teenage mother resulted in the live-birth of a baby who was quickly thrown into the trash.

As a father of five daughters I am appalled that the majority of abortions worldwide are carried out on future women. Since the development of sex identification methods, selective sex abortions have put preborn girls at tremendous risk. The ratio of boy births to female births is rising dramatically leading to "gendercide." It is tragically ironic, isn't it, that the feminist movement that championed abortion in the name of women's rights now finds its hands red with the blood of the very half of the species whom they pretend to represent!

For an excellent article on this growing atrocity read "Gendercide: Where have all the girls gone?" by Joseph Meaney, Director of International Coordination, Human Life International.

HT: Silent Fall

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

What He Must Be, If He Wants to Marry My Daughter-excerpt 1

As promised yesterday, I will post a few excerpts from Voddie Baucham's new book, What He Must Be, over the course of this week. In the first chapter, entitled, "Mutligenerational Vision, Voddie describes the point and purpose of the book.
This book is built on a single, simple premise: I believe fathers have a God-given responsibility to see to it that their daughters marry well and that their sons become worthy husbands. As such, I believe it is necessary for fathers to model biblical manhood, teach biblical manhood, and hunt for biblical manhood on behalf of their daughters. Similarly, I believe fathers with sons have a responsibility to prepare their sons for marriage.

Several years ago, when Jasmine was much younger, a family friend went through a difficult divorce. The breakup did not come as a surprise. It was obvious that theirs was not a God-honoring, biblically functioning marriage, and the handwriting had been on the wall for quite some time.

As things began to work themselves out and the dust began to settle, we talked with our children about the pain and high cost of divorce. As we took advantage of this teachable moment, Jasmine said something that I'll never forget. She looked at me, shook her head, and said, "Daddy, I’m glad I’ve got you to pick my husband." She was dead serious. She had just witnessed the consequences that often accompany a decision to marry an unworthy man, and although she wasn't old enough to understand it all, she did understand that her father was there to protect her.

I have no intention of picking Jasmine's husband for her. We do not advocate arranged marriages. Nor was that my daughter's understanding of the process. She was merely acknowledging what she had been taught all her life--the fact that her father intends to play an active role in the process of finding and evaluating potential suitors (27-28).
Baucham is not some moralistic idealist. In fact, one of the attractions about this book is its repeated appeals to the gospel. He is not offering some kind of formula that will insure a perfect marriage or a life of wedded bliss. Rather, he is calling for parents and young adults to wake up to the miserable failure of our culture's common approach to marriage.
We must find a better way. We must commit ourselves to preparing our children to find suitable mates without relying on the pagan, relativistic mythology that dominates our day. Divorce courts are filled with people who "followed their hearts" and married Mr. or Mrs. Right. There has to be a better way. This is not to say there is a sure-fire guarantee against failure. Nothing could be further Vom the truth. However, I can say for certain that continuing down our current path will not lead to more Godhonoring covenant marriages (49).
Parents must raise their children in ways that do not leave them on their own in the search for a life's mate. Voddie's book provides tools for those who want to pursue this course of parental responsibility.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Voddie Baucham, What He Must Be

Voddie Baucham has been greatly used of God to call attention to the importance of the family in both creation and the church. His book, Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God, calls attention to the need for Christian parents to take the lead in evangelizing and discipling their children.

Voddie is a friend of mine, and our church has benefited from his ministry on more than one occasion. Two years ago he led a conference for us on "Family Life in the Household of God" on the intersection of church and family. We had already moved away from youth-based youth ministry and were very glad to be challenged and instructed from God's Word on this subject by Voddie.

Some of the best discussions that we had came in the informal times around the lunch and dinner tables. One subject that repeatedly came up had to do with "courtship and dating." Parents and young people alike were full of questions and the conversations took us back into Scripture to mine its wisdom on relationships.

Before our first child was out of diapers Donna and I developed some clear convictions about dating. First, we became convinced that the American practice of recreational dating is a formula for spiritual and moral disaster. The rise in divorce rates occurred as American teenagers began to experience "dating" in the mid-twentieth century. Casual dating relationships seemed to be an excellent training ground for later serial monogamy in marriage.

Secondly, we were convinced there had to be a better way. There is. A growing number of Christian parents and young people have "kissed dating goodbye" and are giving themselves to a more thoughtful and intentional process of moving toward marriage. Call it what you will (so many practices that I find bizarre have been advocated in the name of "courtship" that I no longer use that term), but the process includes parental involvement in shepherding their children through the pursuit of marriage. Young people--including young adults--need wise guidance as they navigate those waters, and who better to help provide it for them than parents who love them more than anyone else?

Voddie Baucham gets this. And he writes about it in his newly released book, What He Must Be, if He Wants to Marry My Daughter. Voddie is a gifted writer, weaving interesting narrative around biblical teaching as he sets forth principles for parents who want to serve their children well in helping them get married. Though he focuses on what women and their parents should look for in a potential husband, the book is applicable to everyone who wants to help loved ones marry well. As the father of 5 daughters, I have been helped this book to think more specifically about the spiritual qualities that a man should be developing if he hopes to be a Christ-honoring husband. I was also convicted and challenged by Baucham to invest more energy in helping my son prepare to become a faithful prophet, priest, provider and protector for his future bride.

Voddie's overall concern is to help parents--especially fathers--shepherd their daughters through the process of arranging a marriage to the "right" man. This is not the same as an "arranged marriage" in the sense that the parents simply do it. Rather, it involves teaching and preparing daughters to enter into marriage as spiritually, emotionally and physically intact as possible.

This necessarily involves holding any potential suitor to biblical standards and encouraging him to cultivate the kind of character necessary to be a faithful husband. In our day of extended adolescence and the widespread feminization of men this can be a lonely task but Baucham gives some practical tools to assist in the effort.

I encourage you to read this book. To encourage you to do so, over the course of this week I will post some excerpts from it in order to whet your appetite.