"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

High Court Rules in Favor of Hobby Lobby

The Supreme Court today ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby in the company's lawsuit against the federal government mandating that Hobby Lobby supply birth control as part of its government mandated health care coverage. For those who don't understand the importance of this ruling, this article I published over a year ago will give background. Not everyone will agree with the judgment of the United States Supreme Court, but in my opinion, this is one of the more significant (and good) rulings in the last 30 years. It will be interesting to see how the court's ruling will be challenged by companies which are publicly held entities (unlike Hobby Lobby) and desire the same freedom. Today is definitely a small step forward in the right direction.

The Holiness of Humor by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

"It is a sort of tradition of the fathers that it is wrong to laugh on Sundays. The eleventh commandment is, that we are to love one another; and then, according to some people, the twelfth is, "Thou shalt pull a long face on Sunday." I must confess that I would rather hear people laugh than 1 would see them asleep in the house of God; and I would rather get the truth into them through the medium of ridicule than I would have it neglected, or leave the people to perish through lack of reception of the message. I do believe, in my heart, that there may be as much holiness in a laugh as in a cry; and that, sometimes, to laugh is the better thing of the two, for I may weep, and be murmuring, and repining, and thinking all sorts of bitter thoughts against God; while, at another time, I may laugh the laugh of sarcasm against sin, and so evince a holy earnestness in the defense of the truth. I do not know why ridicule is to be given up to Satan as a weapon to be used against us, and not to be employed by us as a weapon against him." C.H. Spurgeon, Lecture to My Students.

The Rich Man and Lazarus: A Warning to Preachers

A common mistake made by evangelical pastors today is to forsake the systematic teaching of  Scripture (verse by verse exposition) in favor of topical messages that address the 'felt needs' of the hearers. For example, pastors begin with what they perceive to be a relevant problem in the lives of their congregation (money, marriage, family, etc...) and then craft a message--or series of messages--around the topic, often using proof texts pulled from their context. Throw in a few humorous and interesting illustrations, and "BAM" - you have a 'relevant' Sunday morning talk., and everyone thinks they've benefited from going to church.

Unfortunately, topical preaching that revolves around felt needs is in danger of producing a generation of people ignorant of the transformative power of God's Word. Preacher talks can be relevant and entertaining without an emphasis on God's Word, but they can never regenerate and enliven. Scripture is the 'seed' that produces life. Any biblical text deliberately lifted from its context turns into a dangerous pretext.

Expository preaching is avoided by some because of the philosophy that effective preaching comes from 'picking and choosing' topics that are most appropriate to a target audience. Many biblical texts, in the thinking of some preachers, are impossible to 'apply.' If you don't pick and choose topics, a practice called 'topical' preaching, then there will be those instances when you come to texts like this one:
"Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,  in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness." (Luke 3:1-2).
Andy Stanley would never preach from this text. Why? Because he states in his book Deep and Wide"While all Scripture is equally inspired, it's not all equally applicable" (p. 185). For this reason, Andy suggests that Scripture texts like the above should not be taught "in big church" (p. 188). You should pick and choose another text which is more 'applicable' to the Sunday morning hearer. Andy's teaching approach is becoming more and more common among young pastors. I can understand why. It's more enjoyable for the teacher to prepare topical messages. It's far easier for the hearer to apply a topical messages. However, I would like to prove in this post that skipping some texts, and picking and choosing better 'applicable texts,' may inadvertently cause people to miss extraordinary, life transformative truth.

The People Who Most Opposed Christ and His Ministry

Look again at that difficult Luke 3:1-2 passage. The physician Luke is introducing seven political and religious leaders who ruled the people during Jesus' day. These seven people--two Roman rulers, three Hebrew political leaders, and two Jewish religious leaders--eventually became the chief antagonists of Jesus Christ throughout His earthly ministry. If it were not important for us to know them, Luke would have not named them. Let's take a look at them.

(A). The Roman Rulers: Tiberius was the adopted son and sole heir of Augustus Caesar. He was the emperor of Rome (Caesar) throughout Jesus ministry. He became co-regent of the Roman Empire in AD 12 when his ailing adoptive father (Augustus)  became bedridden and could no longer function as emperor. Luke gives the date for the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry as 'the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar' (AD 26/27). Jesus once answered a question about paying taxes to Rome by saying, "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's." The Caesar to whom He referred was this Tiberius in Luke 3. Augustus Caesar was emperor over the Roman empire when Christ was born at Bethlehem. Augustus' son, Tiberius Caesar, was emperor over the Roman empire when Christ was crucified. The second Roman official named in this text is the infamous Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea. He is the Roman official who presides over the trial and execution of Jesus Christ. The American modern equivalent to Tiberius Caesar would be the President of the United States, and Pontius Pilate would be a state governor.

(B). The Hebrew Political Leaders: Luke then names three Hebrew political officials who ruled during Jesus' ministry in Judea - Herod, Philip the Tetrarch (Herod's brother), and Lysanias. Who are these three men? They are the 'leaders' of the ethnic Jews in Jesus day. They were also the sons and political heirs of Herod the Great, the former 'king of the Jews' who died in 4 BC. Herod the Great went ballistic when the wise men asked him "Where is He who is born king of the Jews?" because he (Herod the Great) was already king of the Jews. Herod died shortly after the birth of Jesus Christ. His political kingdom was then divided into regional fourths (Greek: tetrarchys) and distributed among his surviving sons to rule (tetrarchs). Leaders of the Judean tetrarchy mentioned in Luke 3 included Herod (nicknamed Antipas), Philip (often called Philip the Tetrarch), and Lysanias. These men were powerful among the Jews, but they couldn't do anything without Rome's permission

At the birth of Jesus, we read in Matthew 2 that Herod the Great was 'king of the Jews.' Thirty-three years later when Jesus is crucified, we read in Luke 23 that Herod orders soldiers to beat Christ and take him to Pilate. This 'Herod' at Christ's crucifixion is the Herod mentioned in Luke 3. He is the son of Herod the Great and is sometimes called Herod Antipas. The quarter of the region Herod was given to 'rule' as tetrarch included Galilee, the land where both John and Jesus based their ministries.  Herod Antipas is the one who had John the Baptist beheaded (picture).

In the ethnic melting pot we call the United States, it is difficult to find a modern equivalent to the tetrarchy positions held by Herod, Philip, and Lysanias. The closest equivalent might be those men who rule over individual political parties, major corporations, unions, and other powerful economic, political, and cultural entities within America. These positions aren't the highest authority, for they must answer to 'Caesar,' but they have a great deal of influence over a specific category of people.

(C). The Jewish Religious Leaders: Two Wealthy, Powerful Priests. The final two men named by Luke in Luke 3:1-3 are  religious leaders who served as high priests of Israel.  Their names are Annas and Caiaphas. Modern Christians know very little about these two men. Annas was high priest over Israel for ten years (AD 6-15), until at the age of 36, he was removed by the Roman governor Guratus, the predecessor to Pontius Pilate. The other man, Caiaphas, served as high priest over Israel from AD 18 to AD 36, a time period that encompassed all of Jesus adult life and public ministry.

Annas had five sons and one daughter. His daughter married Caiaphas. Interestingly, every one of Annas five sons--as well as his son-in-law Caiaphas--served as the high priest of Israel during Annas' lifetime. Though Caiaphas was high priest during the time of Jesus, Luke names both Annas and Caiaphas because Annas was the power behind the high priest of Israel. It was said that "Annas ruled the religious world," even though his own children were the chief priests of Israel and each had their turn as 'high priest.' It was to Annas that the people first brought Jesus after our Lord's arrest. Only after being questioned by Annas was Jesus sent to Caiaphas for official trial by the Sanhedrin. Modern religious leaders, like Annas, have a tendency to want to control and run things 'behind the scenes.'

Annas and Caiaphas hated everything to do with Christ. Caiaphas particularly was the chief antagonist of our Lord. Caiaphas lived in a palatial mansion inside the walls of Jerusalem. He served as President of the Sanhedrin. If you saw Caiaphas walking around the streets of Jerusalem, he would always have his servants and attendants around him, and he would be dressed in the finest purple and fine linen. He ate the most sumptuous meals, drank the finest wines, always traveled first class, and lived better than the 'common Jew.' The modern equivalent of Caiaphas would be the wealthy religious leaders in America who take a spiritual position of authority and power over the common people of the land.

The Group of Leaders Jesus Condemns

It is striking to discover that Jesus says very little about the corrupt Roman and Judean political leaders of His day. These leaders--men like Tiberius Caesar, Herod Antipas, and Pontius Pilate--were all evil men. Yet, Jesus says very little publicly about any of them. In fact, when questioned about the supreme political leader (Caesar), Jesus simply says "Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar." Jesus is also completely silent before Herod during His trial. Instead of railing against Herod's abuse of political power, Jesus says nothing. It seems Jesus had little to say about politics.

Yet, Jesus boldly and soundly condemned Annas and Caiaphas, the 'rich' religious leaders of His day.

Ironic, is it not, that modern evangelical preachers rail against and condemn President Obama, state governmental leaders, the immoral behavior of business and cultural icons, but there is an appalling silence when it comes to religious leaders who become rich off the tithes and offerings of God's people?

Notice the anger and greed of the religiously rich in Jesus' day. The Bible tells us in John 12 that after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Caiaphas and Annas sought to kill Lazarus 'because many people were going away and were believing in Jesus.' These people 'going away' from the religious institutions governed by Annas and Caiaphas did so because they had seen Lazarus, a former dead man, walking around regenerated and enlivened by the power of Christ. These people had seen the power of real religion. John the Apostle puts it like this:
"The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus. (John 12:9-11)
There are many places that Jesus condemns the religiously rich (i.e. 'the chief priests')  throughout the New Testament, but the most striking example of his imprecatory words against Caiaphas and Annas is found in a parable that is more than a parable.

 "The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus."
“(19) Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. (20) And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, (21) and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. (22) Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. (23) and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. (24) And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ (25) But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. (26) And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ (27) And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— (28) for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ (29) But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ (30) But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ (31) But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Caiaphas is the rich man in Jesus parable of "The Rich Man and Lazarus." Caiaphas is the man "who lifted up his eyes in hell."  Caiaphas, the equivalent to a modern religious leader who becomes rich through his religious service, is condemned by Jesus Christ. How do we know this to be true?


  • The rich man wears the robes the color of the high priest (purple and fine linen).
  • The rich man mistreats the poor man named Lazarus (just as Caiaphas sought to kill Lazarus).
  • The rich man asks a messenger to go to his 'father's house' (Annas' house).
  • The rich man had five brothers (Annas had five sons, Caiaphas was his son-in-law and considered his brothers-in-law to be his brothers).
  • The rich man desires a warning to be given to his five brothers about their behavior (all five of Caiaphas' brothers--the sons of Annas--followed him as 'chief priest' of Israel).
  • The rich man is told that they will not believe "even if someone rises from the dead" (just as Caiaphas, his father Annas, and his five brothers refused to believe in Jesus after Lazarus had been raised from the dead).

If you are a topical preacher you might pick the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus and wax eloquent on the subject of 'hell.' You might say something like (1). Hell is real, (2). Hell is rough. (3). Hell is ready. Then you might give the following application: "If you don't let go of your riches and willingly give your tithes and offerings to the church, you may find yourself waking up one day in hell, wanting to warn others to 'repent' and let go of their riches. Don't wait until it is too late! Give to the Kingdom of God today by giving your tithes and offerings!"

That, my friend, is the sorry state of evangelical preaching today. It's taking a text (the Rich Man and Lazarus) out of its context (the resurrection of Lazarus and the chief priests desire to kill Lazarus instead of believing on Christ) and turning it into a pretext (the false conclusion that the parable is about a person letting go of his money and giving it to the church).

The lessons of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus are only obtained when you systematically and intentionally learn the Scriptures, take texts in their contexts, and focus on the life transforming truth from God's word. The lessons of the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus are:

(1). Any of us who are working in ministry to become rich through our religious service may wake up one day in hell, facing the holy judgment of God.
(2). Instead of railing against the world and our American culture, be it politics, business, Hollywood or some other segment of society, we preachers ought to reserve our harshest words for the religiously rich among us, that is those who become rich through their religious service, and focus more on policing ourselves than we do the world.
(3). We do our Sunday morning crowd a favor when we teach them the Scriptures verse by verse because we prevent them any application from false conclusions and will give the hearer a better appreciation for the words and ministry of Jesus Christ. 



The Preparatory Work of Law Is Unneeded

In the year 1644, nearly 400 years ago, several Baptist churches in London, England issued a Confession of Faith. Interestingly, these Baptists disassociated themselves from continental Anabaptists, wanting people to understand they were NOT Anabaptists. In the title of their Confession, which eventually became known as the 1644 London Confession of Faith (also called The First London Confession) these Baptists write "(we) are those CHURCHES which are  commonly (though falsely)  called ANABAPTISTS." The notion that 21st century Southern Baptists are the spiritual descendants of continental Anabaptists is refuted by the source documents, no matter how much modern Anabaptists attempt to change the record.

Historian Henry C. Vedder called the 1644 London Confession "one of the chief landmarks of Baptist history. It is important to note that the 1644 London Baptists wrote their confession two years prior to the infamous Presbyterian Westminster Confession. If one wishes to see how Baptists historically differ from Presbyterians, one only has to compare and contrast the 1644 London Baptist Confession with the1646 London Presbyterian Confession (Westminster). There are some telling differences. I would like to highlight just one: The use of the Law in the conversion of sinners.

The 17th century London Baptists were clear that it was absolute unnecessary to use "The Law" (meaning the 10 commandments or anything else associated with the Mosaic Law) as prefatory to sharing the gospel. Listen to what they wrote in Article 25:
"The tenders of the Gospel to the conversion of sinners are absolutely free, no way requiring, as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, terrors of the Law, or preceding Ministry of the Law, but only and alone the naked soul, as a sinner and ungodly to receive Christ, as crucified, dead, and buried, and risen again, being made a Prince and a Savior for such sinners."
Someone might ask, "But how does a person know he is a 'sinner' without the Law?" Answer: Mankind's refusal to reflect the image of his Creator predates the giving of the Mosaic Law, and as such, it is unnecessary for the Law to press home man's condition. Truth be known, mankind is 'dead' in trespasses and sins, not through God's fault, but by Adam's (man's) free choice. Therefore, what is needed is not for a good man to be convinced of his sin, but for a dead man to be raised to life. Therefore, Article 24 of the First London Confession states:
"That faith is ordinarily begot by the preaching of the Gospel, or word of Christ, without respect to any power or capacity in the creature, but it (the creature or hearer) is wholly passive, being dead in sins and trespasses, does believe, and is converted by no less power, then that which raised Christ from the dead." 
The 17th century London Baptists believed that the evangelist should love the ungodly (for Christ died for the ungodly), preach Jesus Christ indiscriminately (for it is the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation), and refrain from using "the Law" as a preparatory work of the gospel.

Presbyterians on the other hand, believed the Mosaic Law to be absolutely essential to the conversion of sinners. The Presbyterians write in Chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession:
"The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator who gave it. Neither doth Christ in the gospel any way dissolve, but much strengthen, this obligation. Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly"
Thus, one of the major differences between Baptists and Presbyterians is the emphasis on "The Law." Presbyterians historically believe and teach observing a "Sabbath." Presbyterians emphasize the 'authority' of pastors/elders, similar to the manner in which Old Covenant priests had 'authority' over the laypeople of Israel. The modern church (building) is similar to the historic Temple in Jerusalem. The Mosaic Law is Christianized in Presbyterianism because it is the eternal law of God.

Baptists, on the other hand, see the Law as pointing to Jesus Christ, the Fulfiller of it. The Law of Moses teaches us of Christ, who fulfilled every portion of it (i.e. 'every jot and tittle') and then caused it to 'disappear' in order to establish a 'new and better covenant' with a new and better law (Hebrews 8:13).  The New Covenant promises us eternal blessings because of the obedience of Another. We are declared 'righteous' by God because we abide in Christ by faith, receiving a righteousness that is not our own by any obedience to Law, but "a righteousness that comes from God and is found by faith." Therefore, we preach Christ. Christ is 'foolishness' to the Greeks and a 'stumbling block' to the Jews. but He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. When you come to know the Truth, the Truth will set you free.

The reason I am a follower of Jesus Christ who is unashamedly identified as a 'Baptist' is because the 'Baptist' theology to which I identify is that of the 17th century Baptists who understood the New Covenant, freedom in Christ, and the importance of loving the ungodly in the same manner He has loved us.

The Sad Story of Shooting One's Own

I have researched the Civil War for several years, and the following is a true story, one of many gripping anecdotes that come from our nation's four year internal conflict. It is a portion of the written record of the Battle of Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862) by Captain D.P. Conyngham of the Union army. He recounts a particular portion of the battle in his diary:
"I had a Sergeant Driscoll, a brave man, one of the best shots in the Brigade. When charging Malvern Hill, a company of riflemen was posted in a clump of trees, keeping us under fierce fire, even charging out of the trees on our advance. Their officer seemed to be a daring, reckless boy, and I said to Sergeant Driscoll, 'if that officer is not taken down, many of us will fall before we pass that clump of trees.'
'Leave that to me,' said Driscoll. He raised his rifle, and the moment that officer exposed himself again - BANG! The Southern officer fell, and his company at once broke away from the clump.
As we passed the place I said, 'Driscoll, see if that officer is dead - he was a brave fellow.'
I stood looking on. Driscoll turned him over on his back. The wounded man opened his eyes for a moment and faintly murmured 'Father' and then closed them forever.
I will forever recollect the frantic grief of Driscoll; it was a harrowing experience for all of us to witness. Driscoll had shot and killed his own son. His boy had gone South before the war."


Paige Patterson's Apology to the 'People He's Hurt'

The Southwestern Seminary report was given today at the Southern Baptist Convention. You may watch the final 18 minutes of it here.  Some have requested to know how I felt about Dr. Patterson's remarks. Here are few thoughts.

(1). After the report Danny Akin said from the platform, "Dr. Patterson does not have to apologize to me for his heart for the lost." I am sure Dr. Akin is a bright and intelligent human being, but how in the world someone would think 'an apology' was being given for having 'a heart for the lost' is beyond my comprehension -- particularly an apology given to the Southern Baptist Convention for having a heart for the lost.  Why would anyone 'apologize' for that?  Dr. Akin, we don't need leaders in the Convention using sycophantic language that makes no sense.  We need men who clearly articulate the principles of grace and truth. Give us some truth Danny. We see through flattery.

(2). The Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Southwestern Seminary made it clear that the trustees would address the issue in September. Good for him. He also said, "Don't talk to others about this, talk to God." Not so good for him. Until people talked to others about this issue (including trustees), nothing was being said or done. You are only as sick as the secrets you keep.

(3). Dr. Patterson looked like he was under stress. His voice faltered. He teared up a few times. He looked rattled.  Honestly, my heart went out to him. But then I thought about "Pinky" Klouda, Dr. Sheri Klouda's husband, whose heart was literally failing when Dr. Klouda was being terminated from SWBTS for being a woman teaching Hebrew to men, and my compassion for Dr. Patterson tempered. I thought about Dr. Cornish and the rescission of his contract because his wife had been divorced from an abusive husband when she was just nineteen, long before she ever met Dr. Cornish.  I thought about Dr. Mitchell and what I know about his termination. I am hopeful that 'love for evangelical Christians' reaches the same level as the 'love for the lost' that was expressed from the platform today. Why do we treat believers in Allah better than we do believers in Jesus Christ?

(4).  My old friend, Malcolm Yarnell, found a little anecdote about Dr. Rufus Burleson breaking the rules and admitting an atheist at Baylor University. Good for him. I believe people are always more important than rules. It's interesting that the people who live by the sword, ultimately die by the sword. You fight fire with fire. We need some grace in the Convention for Christians who disagree with others over tertiary doctrinal matters, and  maybe a taste of one's own medicine this spring caused a realization that love for people is far more important than your precious principles that a woman shouldn't teach a man, or a faculty member's wife should never be divorced, or an administrator that has a mouse pad with a saying you don't like... well, you get the picture.

(5). I am praying for Dr. and Mrs. Patterson. I am not just saying those words. I just finished praying for them.   I trust that the lessons learned will be applied in the future when its time to be gracious to those Southern Baptists and other evangelicals who disagree on tertiary issues of the Christian faith. That's the lesson of this Convention.

The Pratt Street Parable: The Civil War and the SBC

I predict within the next 35 years that evangelicals of a Baptist persuasion will join together in the United States for the common purpose of Kingdom work. That's right. By the year 2050, the Southern Baptist Convention will no longer be in existence, and a broader, more kingdom oriented assembly of evangelicals will merge from what is is left of the southern Baptists, northern Baptists, Baptists of different persuasions on tertiary issues, and even non-denominational evangelicals interested in expanding the Kingdom through joint mission efforts. In other words, the Civil War of Christian separatists (ana-baptists) will have been lost.

The Southern Baptist Convention of 2014 is being held in the Baltimore Convention Center which sits on the south side of Pratt Street near the west end of downtown. Most Southern Baptists meeting this week for the annual convention have very little understanding of the history that took place right outside their meeting hall during the Civil War. Truth be known, what occurred 150 years ago could be seen as a parable for Southern Baptists today.

When Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, the south seceded from the Union, with secession beginning before Lincoln was even inaugurated. On Lincoln's way to Washington in January of 1861 for the inauguration, Alan Pinkerton, Lincoln's friend and bodyguard and eventual founder of the United States Secret Service, guarded the President-elect as he traveled from Illinois to the nation's Capital. Pinkerton had discovered a plot to assassinate the President in Baltimore. Changing the schedule of arrival, the President's train, pulled by a steam locomotive, arrived at the Baltimore train station on the east end of Pratt Street (now a free Civil War museum). As was the custom in that day, the engine was disconnected from the railroad cars and horses were then called upon to pull the train west through downtown Baltimore along Pratt Street to the train station in Camden Yards, the precise place where the Baltimore Oriole stadium is now located. Once at Camden, the President's railroad car was re-attached to another steam locomotive and the train went south to Washington.  Lincoln arrived safely for the inauguration, but when the press discovered that Lincoln was wearing a disguise as he went through Baltimore on Pratt Street, they hounded him for his 'lack of courage' the rest of his political career. His enemies even called Lincoln a 'coward' because he secretly passed through Baltimore pretending to be somebody else.

Fast forward three months to April 12, 1861. Fort Sumter is fired upon by Confederate forces and the Civil War officially begins. Lincoln refused to call it a 'war' those first few weeks, preferring to use the word 'insurrection.' However, he was concerned that the nation's Capital was defenseless against attack, so the President issued an immediate call for 75,000 volunteer militia to report to Washington in defense of the Capital. Volunteer troops from Massachusetts answered the call and went by train through Philadelphia to Baltimore. At that same station on east Pratt Street at which Lincoln arrived three months earlier, the volunteer Union troops arrived on April 19, 1861 exactly one week after the beginning of the Civil War.

Baltimore was a slave city, and Maryland was sympathetic with the south. Rather than allow the train to be pulled by horses from the east end of Pratt Street to Camden Yards on the west end of Pratt Street, the volunteer Union troops left the train station and began marching west on Pratt. The streets were soon filled with conservative southerners who resented their 'liberal' brothers from the north. Words and catcalls ensued. Then some in the crowd began throwing rocks. Finally, someone fired a shot.

The Union volunteer militia troops opened fire. When the smoke settled, 12 civilians and 4 Union solders were found dead, with several other civilians and soldiers wounded. It happened right in front of the Baltimore Convention Center. It was the first bloodshed of the Civil War. Nobody died during the firing on Fort Sumter. The Union soldiers who died on Pratt Street were the first of what would be   an estimated 620,000 soldiers who would die during the Civil War - more casualties than all other American wars combined. Very few Americans know the names of the people who died on Pratt Street on that April 19, 1861 spring day. But what America does remember is who won the war. The north did. The Union survived.

The parable of Pratt Street in terms of the Southern Baptist Convention is similar: Very few people will ever know the names of those devoted followers of Jesus Christ who have been verbally shot, spiritually wounded, or otherwise personally hurt by the words and actions of idealogical (notice, not theological, but idealogical) southern conservative Baptists who prefer to call Christians who disagree with them 'cousins' instead of 'brothers.'  Southern ideologues much prefer to fight than join the union.

Some have asked why I stay in the SBC instead of leaving. My answer is complicated, but to reduce it the foundation for all my reasoning, I would respond to such a question in this manner:
"There is coming a day when the union of God's people will survive the Civil War begun by ideologues. I may wind up being one of those unnamed casualties on Pratt Street, but I will have done what I can to defend the principles of liberty, equality and charity while resisting the practices of forced doctrinal conformity, racial and gender patriarchy, and religious bigotry. "
Goodbye, Baltimore. It's been interesting.



10 Reasons for Practicing Muslims to Enroll at SWBTS

In honor of today's SBC seminary reports at the Southern Baptist Convention in Baltimore, I thought I'd give 10 reasons why practicing Muslims ought to consider enrolling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

1). You will be given your own private room so nobody will be offended by your prayer life or you theirs.

2). You will be allowed to smoke tobacco, just as long as you don't do it in front of administration and as long as you will allow administration to pretend you always abide by 'the moral code' (for the record, many of us believe the administration's moral code against 'smoking' is puerile).

3). You will be given an on campus job at the seminary, working among other evangelical pastors in need of work as well. The seminary does a good job providing for their own.

4). You will not have to listen to long introductions or stories from missionaries about their work in foreign lands as you sit among them at Prayer Breakfasts. They will, of course, be kind and personal with you (as they always are), just not reciprocal in sharing their own stories.

5). You can obtain the most inexpensive accredited Ph.D. in theology with an emphasis in 'archaeology' on the continent of North America, funded by Southern Baptists.

6). You won't have to attend all the required seminary chapels or be expected to share your faith during the week.

7). You will join other 'cousins' attending SWBTS who believe something other than what administration deems the truth.

8). You will never have to worry about being picked to speak at the Southern Baptist Convention on the advantages of obtaining a SBC seminary degree.

9). You will leave SWBTS with a working, intimate knowledge of SBC mission work around the world.

10). You can put on your 'resume' - Ph.D. Southwestern Theological Baptist Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, and be denied employment in every Sharia Law country and then request asylum in the US and help your fellow cousins as they build mosques on US soil.

Once you graduate, I hope you are a spokesperson for the freedom granted all faiths in a country built on the principles of liberty, equality, and human dignity. We Baptists have played a huge roll throughout our country's history in making the United States 'the land of the free.'

SBC 2014 - Tuesday, Day 3

It is 1:30 am Wednesday morning and I am winding down from a very long day. Up early for business meetings and the SBC Presidential election, and back at the hotel late tonight. I have many things to say, but no time nor energy to say them in writing.

Instead, I'd like you to read what others are saying.

Ben Cole gives his genuinely razor sharp analysis of Ronnie Floyd's election as President of the SBC.

Watchdog gives a stunning indictment on the silence of SBC leaders regarding the Darryl Gilyard affair.

The official blog of Baptist Press reported on the nearly one dozen motions offered from the floor Tuesday by individual messengers today.  Of note was the motion that the "trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary report to the convention the reason a person of 'another faith' was allowed to enroll in their seminary." I suspect the trustees of SWBTS will be doing just that very thing tomorrow at 3:57 pm (their Convention report).

There are a few things that went unnoticed by many in the SBC today, and it could possibly be I might write about some of them in a future post. Among those things unnoticed include the reason why Tim Rogers was first nominated to be a trustee of the International Mission Board, but was later removed from the list presented by the Committee on Nominations.

Finally, I had some great fellowship with several individuals today from Oklahoma and around the nation. I learned a great deal about Louisiana College, Brewton-Parker College, and Cedarville University. The future at these three institutions will be filled with interesting developments.

It will again be late evening before I can post my thoughts tomorrow night.


The Odd Report from Southwestern Seminary

In the official 'Book of Reports' of the Southern Baptist Convention, received by every Southern Baptist who registers as a messenger for the SBC 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland, there are 'official' reports from the various entities of the SBC. I spent the afternoon reading all the reports and the one from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary struck me as peculiar,  odd, and quite strange. Before I comment on what struck me as odd about the report, let me give it to you in toto from paragraph 2 through paragraph 4, highlighting the bizarre language in bold:

"Southern Baptists have a seminary in Fort Worth, Texas that is determined to recover the Anabaptist and New Testament vision. While appreciating the compromised theology of the Reformers, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary refuses to truncate the everlasting gospel. Confident with the Anabaptists that we can say to every man, "God loves you individually and died for your sins," Southwestern presses on in the intensity of a campaign to get the good news of salvation in Christ to all seven billion on this globe. While allowing no discrimination against our Reformed cousins who come to us, we continue to sound the trumpet of leading people to Christ, baptizing them by immersion in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and gathering them into free churches with congregational governments.

To that end, this year Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary hosted a Homemaking Conference that drew more than a thousand women. This continues our accentuation on biblical gender roles and on the critical importance of the home in the plan and purpose of God. Our biblical homemaking degree is growing and exercising increasing influence."

Comments:

(1). "the compromised theology of the Reformers"  - if you are a Calvinist in the SBC, you are a 'compromised' Christian, believing a 'compromised' theology.

(2). "to truncate the everlasting gospel" - any teaching of the gospel that is contrary to what they teach at Southwestern is a 'truncated' gospel because they possess the truth.

(3). "against our Reformed cousins" - if you believe differently than we do on the subject of soteriology, then you are not even our brothers, you are our cousins. Even Vatican II did not stoop to separate from Muslims and Jews with the language of 'cousins.'  Now we have Southern Baptists separating from other Southern Baptists by calling those who disagree 'cousins' and not 'brothers.'

(4). "congregational governments" - if you are in a church with 'elders' or another form of government than 'congregational,' you better prepare yourself to defend why you believe you are not in violation of the convention wide adopted confession of faith.

(5). "hosted a Homemaking Conference" - not only will we accept Muslims, we will teach Muslim women how to cook.

(6). "our accentuation on biblical gender roles" - Translation: Women, stay at home and take care of your man. We will teach you how.

(7).  "the critical importance of the home in the plan and purpose of God" - if you work outside the home, woman, you are violating the will of God.

(8). "Our biblical homemaking degree is growing and exercising increasing influence." We are excited to teach women how to sew, cook, and care for the home. Forget training men and women to study the Scriptures, preach the gospel, and share Christ around the world; we are excited that our homemaking program is growing.

Conclusion: The fact that there are very few voices registering their opposition to the continuing downgrade of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary makes me wonder if the Southern Baptist Convention has so radically changed that people no longer think for themselves, or it is possibly that I am so out of lockstep with who the SBC has become that I no longer should participate in the SBC.

Honestly, this SWBTS report is bizarre.  Nothing is said of accepting practicing Muslims, but the seminary toots its horn about keeping women in their 'God-given role' of homemaking, and has no problem 'separating' from fellow Southern Baptist 'cousins' who believe differently about salvation than they. The slide toward neo-fundamentalism continues unabated.






SBC 2014 - Monday Afternoon, June 9, Day 2

The Executive Committee has amended the language of their Article III Constitutional recommendation to the Southern Baptist Convention (which will come before the Convention tomorrow), changing the original language which defined churches deemed to be in "friendly cooperation" with the Southern Baptist Convention as "those who do not operate in a manner which demonstrates opposition to the BFM 2000" to language which describes churches in friendly cooperation as those who have "a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention's adopted statement of faith."

So, in summary, the Executive Committee was going to recommend a Constitutional change which defined cooperating SBC churches as:

 "...those who do not operate in a manner which demonstrates opposition to the BFM 2000."

Not anymore.

The new Executive Committee recommendation contains language which defines cooperating SBC churches as those  which have:

"...a faith and practice which closely identifies with the Convention's adopted statement of faith."

The questions would be (1). Who makes the determination which church is or is not 'closely identifying' with the Convention's adopted statement of faith? Is it the association? Is it the State Convention? Is it a committee? (2). Why do we continue to feel the need to narrow the doctrinal parameters of our missionary cooperation? We separate much further from one another, those we once called brothers we will actually begin calling 'cousins.' Just wait.

More later.


SBC 2014 - Monday Morning, June 9, Day 2

I registered this morning for the Southern Baptist Convention and was shocked at what looks like an extremely small set up for the Convention. It seems the Baltimore Convention Center is arranged to seat no more than 4,000. A far cry from the 45,000, 35,000, 25,000 and such of yesteryear.

Really enjoyed worship being led by Matt Redman in the Pastor's Conference this morning. Matt is a songwriter (Heart of Worship), as well as a worship leader in England. Biltmore Baptist Church is responsible for the Pastor's Conference, setting the theme as "The Glory of God." Truthfully, many of us spend as much time in the Exhibit Hall as we do the Convention Hall. I was able to reconnect with Marty Duren (NAMB), Jim Wideman (Executive Director, New England), and a host of pastors from around the nation I have not seen in a while.

One of the great new things I've seen at the Convention is "The Prayer Walk" which is established by the Maryland Baptist Convention. The world and national maps with pins representing missionaries and churches were very well done. We've been looking for such a map that we can display at Emmanuel Enid, helping our people focus on remembering our missionaries we've sent around the world. I think we've found the perfect map and Doug from Maryland has committed to help us get one. It was created and built for the SBC 2014, so Doug's unique creation might have long term benefits for Emmanuel Enid.

I'm about to leave the Convention for lunch. At 2:00 pm the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention will meet to discuss whether or not they will bring their motion to the floor of the SBC, the motion I've written about previously. 

I will be there.

SBC 2014 - Sunday, June 8, Day 1

I spent today with my good friend Colonel Andy Hamann in Washington D.C. Andy is now stationed with the Defense Intelligence Agency at Joint Base Anacostia-Bollling. Andy and I attended Capital Hill Metropolitan Baptist Church Sunday morning. Pastor Mark Dever was warm and welcoming, and the teaching we heard was excellent. Both Andy and I were impressed with the ministries of CHMBC. It was particularly encouraging to see the number of young families and single professionals involved and engaged in worship this morning.

After a quick tour of Bolling, we had lunch with the Commander of the Presidential Flying Group and Chief Pilot for Air Force One. Bruce is a former classmate of Andy's. Bruce, his wife, and four young children comprise one of the most delightful families you will ever meet. After lunch Andy took me to Fort McNear and we had a private tour of Building 20, the site of the imprisonment, trial and execution in 1865 of the Lincoln assassination conspirators. I have written a great deal on the assassination of Lincoln, and to see this historic site was pretty special for me. After the afternoon tour of Fort McNear, we went downtown D.C. and had a visit with the Park Rangers before going to Ford Theater and making an impromptu visit to Baptist Alley behind the historic site of Lincoln's assassination.

We ate dinner with my friend Ben Cole, who now works at the Capital. It was quite the entertaining evening reminiscing with Ben at the Capital Grille on Pennsylvania. For those of you who have missed Ben at the SBC the last few years, good news! Ben will be joining us at the Southern Baptist Convention this year in Baltimore, and he will be posting throughout the Convention at Baptist Blogger - a definite 'can't miss' read.

I have arrived in Baltimore (late evening) and will be registering at the SBC early in the morning during the Pastor's Conference. Look forward to seeing many of you there!



Always Glad to Know I'm Appreciated!


 
Thank you Dr. and Mrs. Patterson for your thoughtful expression.
Trust I'll be able to say 'Thank You' in person at Baltimore.

The Reason Real Repentance Is So Rare These Days

I never ceased to be amazed at the street evangelists who stand on corners and yell and scream at others about impending judgment. Not only is it irritating, the messengers don't seem to understand the utter futility of shouting "Repent!" and "God's judgment is coming!" The message of God's judgment toward sinners never leads sinners toward God. It just doesn't happen. It's impossible, according to Scripture.

The only thing worse is when preachers in expensive suits--men  who don't look like  wild-eyed maniacs--deliver the same message of impending judgment and expect conversions. The only difference between preachers in pulpits and those on street corners is that most sophisticated preachers speak of sin in terms of a nebulous and wicked 'society' or 'culture' rather than shouting at a specific person as he walks down the sidewalk. The spirit and message are the same. The message of God's wrath on the 'unrepentant' homosexual, drug addict, adulterer, alcoholic, and other named sinners never leads to change in any of them.

True repentance springs from God's goodness. The Bible tells us this.  "It is the goodness of God that leads to repentance" (Romans 2:4).

When Law is constantly proclaimed in an effort for God's judgment and man's crimes to meet in the court of conscious, no true repentance will ever be produced. Sorrow, maybe, but no repentance. Regret, possibly, but no true repentance. Judgment proclaimed always leads people to flee from God, never toward God.

Evangelical, saving repentance  springs from a believing view of a reconciled God in the face of Jesus Christ, and the incredible good news that God has an eternal love for sinners. Repentance and faith go hand in hand, for it is "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). God's love for sinners in sending His Son, and the Son's finished work on behalf of sinners, contain both the spirit and message (grace and truth) that lead sinners to repentance toward God and faith toward Christ. These two things are never produced until the  spirit in the messenger is one of love toward sinners and the message is one of God's goodness in Christ toward sinners.

If your organization is known more for the sins they're against and the message of God's judgment on unrepentant sinners,  then right there is the reason why there are decreasing conversions.

Next time you feel tempted to clap and cheer at a convention for a thunderous message against 'homosexuals,' and 'transsexuals,' and other 'sexual sinners,' or a diatribe against alcohol and drug abuse, or a proclamation of God's judgment against our nation for the moral decay in Hollywood, or God's wrath on our culture due to the break-up of the traditional family, maybe you ought to sit on your hands.

We must regain the message of the goodness and grace of God toward sinners and begin to focus like a laser on the gospel and forsake our infatuation with Law and judgment or we will never see a turnaround in the numbers of people saved.

Southwestern, the Star-Telegram, Secrecy, and the SBC

Reporter Jim Jones of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published an interesting article last Friday, May 30, 2014 on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's decision to accept a practicing Muslim into their School of Theology and reward him a Ph.D. in theology with a major in archeology.

Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern, is quoted as saying he "made an exception to admission policy" in allowing the practicing Muslim to enroll. In addition, Patterson said "When policy becomes so hard and fast that it is never to be violated, that comes pretty close to legalism."

Ironic, is it not, that Southwestern will make an exception and accept a practicing Muslim "lest we be legalistic," but will rescind a job offer to a music student and professor whose wife was discovered to have been divorced from her first marriage. Ironic, is it not, that Southwestern will make an exception and accept a practicing Muslim "lest we be legalistic," but will release an extraordinary female professor because she's a woman. Ironic, is it not, that Southwestern will make an exception and admit a practicing Muslim, but will release a Southern Baptist educated and trained African American as head of their Cultural Engagement Center for his Facebook posts. I could go on, but you get the picture. Where is our grace for our brothers and sisters in Christ? I'm all for grace for Muslims, I suggest we be even more gracious to those who express a common faith in the Anointed One.

Dr. Patterson is also quoted as saying, "I had not attempted to be secretive about this."

It is my understanding that the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were unaware of the President's 'exception' and the admission of the practicing Muslim. It has also been stated to me by faculty present at meetings with Dr. Patterson that the entire acceptance of the Muslim student was shrouded in secrecy and orders were given to not discuss it. I am more than happy to give Dr. Patterson the benefit of the doubt that he did not 'attempt to be secretive.' It should be pretty easy to clear up any confusion and determine if, indeed, the 'exception' was done in secret. I know how, and will do so next week.

In addition, I think I may ask Dr. Patterson during his report time if he would ever make an 'exception' and admit a practicing 'homosexual' to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and if not, then what is the principled difference between making an exception and admitting a practicing Muslim and not a practicing homosexual?

Both are sinners. Both are lost. Both are in need of conversion and repentance. Both need evangelized.

I'm giving Dr. Patterson some time to formulate an answer, though I believe I know it in advance. The Muslim accepted Southwestern's 'moral code.' Hmmm. When our Southern Baptist seminaries place more of an emphasis on the acceptance of a 'moral code' for admission than in a clear profession of faith in Jesus Christ, we have ceased being evangelical and now have more in common with institutions of liberalism, humanism, and neo-paganism.

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/05/30/5860206/a-muslim-baptist-seminary-and.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Just a quick search of the Southern Baptist Convention's resolutions on seminary education brought up a few examples of what Southern Baptists expect from our seminaries (see below). I would think that exceptions to the 'policies and procedures' of our seminaries would also be exceptions to the stated desires of the Convention.


Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/05/30/5860206/a-muslim-baptist-seminary-and.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy
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"RESOLVED, That this Convention cherishes the hope that the great cause of ministerial education may continue to receive the fervent prayers and more enlarged contributions of our brethren generally; that those institutions now in existence may receive a more hearty support; and that the churches in the several states represented in this body, may seek out and properly educate all suitable gifts within their bounds, that they may thus supply the constantly increasing demand of our missionary fields." - The SBC Resolution on Seminaries, Baltimore, Maryland 1853

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"Be it further RESOLVED, That the Convention call on the boards of trustees and seminary presidents to implement the charter and bylaws of the seminaries" - The SBC Resolution on Responsibility in SBC Seminaries, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1983

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"WHEREAS, The Southern Baptist Convention has established and supported six seminaries for the purpose of providing Christian education and preparation for Christian ministry, and

WHEREAS, Members of the staff and faculties in these institutions have consistently demonstrated an exemplary commitment to this noble purpose--individually signing a statement of fundamental Christian beliefs and corporately making an immeasurable contribution to the lives of persons preparing for Christian service, and

WHEREAS, Recent accusations have brought into question the doctrinal integrity of some seminary staff and faculty members in relation to the "Baptist Faith and Message" statement adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1963.

Therefore be it RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention encourage anyone who questions the doctrinal integrity of seminary staff and faculty members to follow the procedures of historic Baptist polity and the guidelines of the Southern Baptist Convention Constitution (Article VII) and register specific charges or complaints with the boards of trustees of the respective seminaries, and

Therefore be it further RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention express its profound appreciation to the staff and faculty members of our seminaries who have persistently and sacrificially taught the truth with love--enriching our appreciation for the Bible as God's Holy Word and enhancing our ministry in Christ's name." - SBC Resolution on Gratitude for Our Seminaries, Houston, Texas 1979

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See you in Baltimore.