Words to Winners of Souls

About a year ago a good friend pointed me to Horatius Bonar’s Words to Winners of Souls. It’s available for free both in print and mp3. My printed edition is 31 pages, so for several months I read a page a day. It’s a great challenge and blessing that I decided to share each day of this month.

“How much more would a few good and fervent men effect in the ministry than a multitude of lukewarm ones!” said Oecolampadius, the Swiss Reformer — a man who had been taught by experience, and who has recorded that experience for the benefit of other churches and other days.

The mere multiplying of men calling themselves ministers of Christ will avail little. They may be but “cumberers of the ground.” They may be like Achan, troubling the camp; or perhaps Jonah, raising the tempest. Even when sound in the faith, through unbelief, lukewarmness and slothful formality, they may do irreparable injury to the cause of Christ, freezing and withering up all spiritual life around them. The lukewarm

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ministry of one who is theoretically orthodox is often more extensively and fatally ruinous to souls than that of one grossly inconsistent or flagrantly heretical. “What man on earth is so pernicious a drone as an idle minister?” said Cecil. And Fletcher remarked well that “lukewarm pastors made careless Christians.” Can the multiplication of such ministers, to whatever amount, be counted a blessing to a people? The fathers of the Scottish Church, acting upon this principle, preferred keeping a parish vacant to appointing over it an unsuitable pastor.

And when the church of Christ, in all her denominations, returns to primitive example, and walking in apostolical footsteps seeks to be conformed more closely to inspired models, allowing nothing that pertains to earth to come between her and her living Head, then will she give more careful heed to see that the men to whom she entrusts the care of souls, however learned and able, should be yet more distinguished by their spirituality, zeal, faith and love.

In comparing Baxter and Orton, the biographer of the former remarks that “Baxter would have set the world on fire while Orton was lighting a match.” How true! Yet not true alone of Baxter or of Orton. These two individuals are representatives of two classes in the church of Christ in every age and of every denomination. The latter class are far the more numerous: the Ortons you may count by hundreds, the Baxters by tens; yet who would not prefer a solitary specimen of the one to a thousand of the other?

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Teach Me, O Lord, Thy Holy Way

 

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Teach me, O Lord, Thy holy way,
And give me an obedient mind;
That in Thy service I may find
My soul ’s delight from day to day.

Guide me, O Savior, with Thy hand,
And so control my thoughts and deeds,
That I may tread the path which leads
Right onward to the blessed land.

Help me, O Savior, here to trace
The sacred footsteps Thou hast trod;
And, meekly walking with my God,
To grow in goodness, truth, and grace.

Guard me, O Lord, that I may ne’er
Forsake the right, or do the wrong:
Against temptation make me strong,
And round me spread Thy sheltering care.

Bless me in every task, O Lord,
Begun, continued, done for Thee:
Fulfil Thy perfect work in me;
And Thine abounding grace afford.

William T. Matson (1833–1899)
Tune: Psalm 100

Male and female infantry Marines to share tents in the field

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You can’t make this up.

Just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should be done. Contrary to the article, the controlling issue here shouldn’t be whether the mission can be successfully accomplished regardless of the Marine’s “gender.” Women shouldn’t be in that position in the first place.

Why?

Here’s my notes from a message I gave on this subject a year ago at Orwell Bible Church:

A Biblical and Theological Response and Statement of Opposition to Women Serving in the Military
Pastor Dan Greenfield

  1. The Bible is God’s Word stating His will for all of human life, teaching everything needful for faith and practice. No man or institution has authority superseding that of God’s Word.
  1. Men and women owe their existence solely to God, not any evolutionary process. God created both man and woman in his image, man (Adam) from the dust and the woman (Eve) from man’s rib (Gen 1–2).
  1. Men were specially created and constituted by God to lead, provide, and self-sacrificially protect their wives, families, and societies (Gen 9:6; Rom 13:4; Eph 5:25; 1 Pet 3:7).
  1. Women were specially created and constituted by God to help and support their husbands and give, nurture, preserve, and care for life within marriage and their various spheres in society (Gen 2:18, 20, 22; 3:20; 1 Cor 11:9; 1 Tim 2:11–15; 5:14; Titus 2:3–5). Their natural vulnerability is not a fault but serves their God given roles and demands loving care, consideration, and protection (1 Thess 2:7; 1 Pet 3:7).
  1. By God’s creation men and women are fundamentally distinct from one another in ability, constitution, gifts, and purpose. Women should not minimize such in order to attain equal status with men; instead, they should gratefully recognize, joyfully celebrate, and faithfully live to their fullest ability (cf. 1 Tim 2:11–15).
  1. Adam’s failure to obey God’s command and to protect his wife caused sin’s destructive effects to spread throughout the created order, of which warfare is one such sad but necessary effect (Rom 5:12ff; 8:20–21).
  1. The objective of warfare is for governments to inflict destruction and death on an enemy in order to protect the welfare, security, and good order of the nation and its citizens (Rom 13:4). This is in keeping with the role and responsibilities God gave men (cf. #3) but not women (cf. #4).
  1. Throughout Scripture only men were the subjects of military service and involved in combat (Gen 14:14; Num 31:3–4, 21, 49; Deut 20:5–9; Josh 1:14–18; 6:3, 7, 9; 8:3; 10:7; Judg 7:1–8; 20:8–11; 1 Sam 8:11–12 [contrast v. 13]; 11:8; 13:2; 14:52; 16:18; 18:5; 24:2; 2 Sam 17:8; 23:8–39; 24:2, 9; 2 Kings 24:14–16; 1 Chr 21:5; 27:1–15, 23–24; 2 Chr 17:12–19; 25:5–6; 26:11–14; Neh 4:14).

While Deborah did go with Barak, God commanded Barak to lead the army into battle, promising him victory (Judg 4:6–7). Barak’s unwillingness to go without Deborah demonstrated weakness on his part. Furthermore, Deborah did not take part in the battle (Judg 4:10, 12, 14b)

Jael’s action in killing Sisera (Judg 4:21) was not as a soldier in combat but occurred in her domestic jurisdiction against one who was not on the field of battle.

  1. While women could use their God-given gifts in military service and some may be able to effectively participate and contribute in warfare, this does not provide biblical grounds for doing so (just because they can doesn’t mean they should, cf. #4).
  1. Women can care for and treat those ill or injured as a result of military service, but such service should not necessarily require women enlisting in the armed forces.
  1. Those enlisting in the United States military must affirm the oath of enlistment, obliging the enlistee to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic, obeying the orders of the President and the enlistee’s officers, and depend on God’s help to do so. Women enlistees would therefore take the role of military defender which is out of line with God’s Word and her created constitution. While some have attempted to distinguish between combatant and non-combatant roles, the enlistment oath makes no such distinction.

 U.S. Code § 502

(a)Enlistment Oath.—

Each person enlisting in an armed force shall take the following oath:

“I, __________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

  1. Civil authorities that intentionally place women in harm’s way or rely on them for military service violate God’s Word, demean rather than honor women, and disgracefully surrender the God-given roles and responsibilities of men. Furthermore, conscription of women into military service would force many to take an oath against their consciences to do what they believe is wrong.
  1. Women who are forced to register for the draft and/or conscripted into military service have biblical grounds for “civil disobedience.” While Christians must submit to government authorities (Rom 13:1), when such authorities blatantly violate Scripture, Christians must respond with “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
  1. Chaplains are not required to advocate, support, or agree contrary to their consciences in these matters, nor can they be forbidden to give biblical counsel regarding these matters as represented by this statement.

God always fulfills His promises

Acts 23:1-10 relates how Paul was in a difficult spot, literally about to be torn in two! The following night Jesus “stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome” (23:11).

The rest of the book of Acts details how Jesus’ promise to Paul was fulfilled–from his nephew’s quick thinking that resulted in his escape from an assassination attempt, to the Roman escort, to Paul’s defense before Felix and Agrippa, to his shipwreck and eventual arrival in Rome!

The Lord always fulfills His promises, but rarely if ever according to human expectations. Always trust Him regardless of the circumstances!

Remember also that shortly before this Paul prayed for the opportunity to be in Rome to minister the gospel! (Romans 15:30-32; Romans was written during Paul’s three month stay in Corinth, Acts 20:2-3)

The Bond Essential to a Local Church

rope-1674142_960_720I don’t agree with everything Puritan William Ames (1576-1633) said about the church, but I greatly appreciated these statements of his I read today:

Believers do not make a particular church, even though by chance many may meet and live together in the same place, unless they are joined together by a special bond among themselves…

This bond is a covenant, expressed or implicit, by which believers bind themselves individually to perform all those duties toward God and toward one another which relate to the purpose of the church and its edification…

Therefore, no one is rightly admitted into the church except on confession of faith and promise of obedience…

Those who have opportunity to join the church and neglect it most grievously sin against God because of his ordinance, and also against their own souls because of the blessing joined to it. And if they obstinately persist in their carelessness, whatever they otherwise profess, they can scarcely be counted believers truly seeing the kingdom of God.

The Marrow of Theology, pp. 180-181.

A Hymn and Prayer for the New Year

Now, gracious Lord, thine arm reveal,
And make thy glory known;
Now let us all thy presence feel,
And soften hearts of stone!

Help us to venture near thy throne,
And plead a Savior’s name;
For all that we can call our own,
Is vanity and shame.

From all the guilt of former sin
May mercy set us free;
And let the year we now begin,
Begin and end with thee.

Send down thy Spirit from above,
That saints may love thee more;
And sinners now may learn to love
Who never loved before.

And when before thee we appear
In our eternal home;
May growing numbers worship here,
And praise thee in our room.

John Newton (1725-1807)

The SBC and the New Calvinism

Within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) over the last few years I’ve heard rumblings against the “New Calvinism.” This past Tuesday Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson said that “If we are not careful a myriad of related beliefs and practices will enter our camp, hidden within the Trojan Horse of Calvinism.” Patterson’s remarks followed that day’s chapel speaker, Rick Patrick, the executive director of an SBC anti-Calvinistic group called Connect316.

You can read the SBC article here.

I’m so tempted to make this a longer post and address some of the points made with regard to both sides of the issue, but I’ll resist :-). For now, if you’d like some idea, head over to the Silo and read my doctrinal statement.

Last month the American Council of Christian Churches (ACCC) adopted a resolution on the New Calvinism. The ACCC doesn’t make church polity, ordinances, or Calvinistic soteriology test of fellowship (that’s not the focus of the Council). Read our resolution, and you’ll see our concerns listed there. I gave a message related to this issue at the ACCC’s annual convention, but it’s not up yet.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see the sparks fly in the SBC barn over this issue.

The Act of the Death of Christ

William Ames (1576-1633), Puritan theologian, powerfully says that Christ’s death

was an act of Christ and not a mere matter of enduring because he met and endured it purposely. John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep,” and 10:18, “No man takes it from me, but I lay it down myself.” For the same reason it was also voluntary and not compelled. The act arose out of power and not merely out of weakness–out of obedience to his Father and love for us, not out of his own guilt or deserving. It was designed to satisfy through victory and not to ruin through surrender.

Marrow of Theology, p. 141, emphases added.

Temptation to Sin

I’m continuing to read through Puritan William Ames’s The Marrow of Theology, a little each day after my Bible reading. I appreciated his teaching concerning the character of the devil’s temptation of Adam and its continued character–

  1. The devil’s tempting is a fallacious or sophistical argument whereby, under the appearance of what is true and good, he tries to seduce into falsity and lead into evil.
  2. In this temptation, the good which he held out and pretended to promise was set forth as if it were the greatest of good things; the way to attain that good was pretended to be simple and easy; and that greatest of evils which hung over man’s head was hidden from him.
  3. The devil does the same in all the temptations by which he ensnares mankind.