Tears of Joy

William 0 monthsI can still remember the day my son was born. I had been praying for him for twenty-four years and now  he was finally here! The nurse had just finished wrapping him up when she said, “Mr. Pittenger, would you like to hold your son?” I nodded my head yes with tears of joy streaming down my face. The joy I felt that day was more than I could ever have thought or imagined.

On January 20, 2013 I had the privilege of baptizing my son. He had chosen that dateWilliam Baptism because it was the same day I was baptized in 1974. I had started praying for his salvation way back in 1980 when I was 16, and now at the age of 48 I was seeing the fruit of all those prayers. I baptized him and as he came up out of the water once again my eyes were filled with tears of joy—uncontrollable JOY!

Today was special day at church. Pastor Alex Himaya explained in simple terms the importance of baptism and salvation. At the end of the service he invited anyone who accepted Christ or who had never been baptized to do so today. I watched as 23 people made a public commitment to follow Christ through Believer’s Baptism! I saw people whose eyes were filled with tears of joy as their loved ones were baptized.

tC BaptismAs I left church today I was overcome with tears of joy from seeing so many people join the family of God. I don’t know any of their names, where they live, or what they do for a living, but I do know they are my family—my eternal family!

Thank you Jesus for such a wonderful gift that produces beautiful tears of joy!

The Infrastructure of the Church

Church 101

The Infrastructure of the Church

As we begin our study of Church 101, the first basic truth we will see is found in 1 Corinthians 1:1-3.

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:1-3

As we take a closer look at these three verses we are going to see the infrastructure of The Church of God.

First, The Church of God is made up of THE MESSENGER

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother”. (1 Corinthians 1:1)

The reason behind Paul’s opening in verse one is because those in Corinth were questioning his authority. The initial address of sectarianism is seen later in chapter one. Paul’s Position is stated clearly: He is an apostle. He was called by the will of God.

This speaks to the divine origin of HIS POSITION

God chose Paul. This was not a task he volunteered for. He was an apostle sent by God. The word Apostle (apostolos) means “sent from”. In the Greek, the one sent isn’t the main focus, rather the focus is upon the sender and the reason for the sending. So, God is the focus! God is responsible for Paul’s ministry as well as the message he is writing to the Corinthians (and to us). John MacArthur clarifies the role of the one sent:

When the Jewish supreme court, the Sanhedrin, was asked to arbitrate a serious dispute or to give an interpretation regarding Jewish law or tradition, they would send their decision by an apostolos to the parties involved, who were often represented through a synagogue. As far as the message was concerned, the apostolos possessed the full authority of the Sanhedrin. He did not speak for himself, but for the Sanhedrin. Yet he was more than a messenger. He was an emissary, an envoy, an ambassador. Paul was God’s envoy, God’s ambassador (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:20), God’s apostolos. (MacArthur 222-26)

Paul wanted them to know he was writing God’s message and that he is simply an emissary delivering the Lord’s message.

The next thing we learn about The Messenger is: HIS PERSON

“and Sosthenes our brother”
Though an apostle, he was still equal to all believers. All Christians are saints. The Corinthians had those who thought they were super-saints. Either prominence, prosperity, or power led them to feel superior. Paul associates himself with the church in Corinth using the term “Our brother”. The New Testament consistently presents the theme of family: We are One through the blood of Christ Jesus!

How is this applicable to the church today? Ministers are called by God. Trust me, no one chooses to be a minister. All are chosen and called by God to a specific task. Ministers are to proclaim the eternal, timeless message of God. We are ambassadors for God. We are delivering His message.

Even though ministers have different responsibilities they are still equal to the saints. All believers are a part of the body of Christ, so none are more important than the others. Ministers lead the sheep, but only by following Christ’s leadership. They are to be treated as part of the family. When a group or person tries to run the church it is never a good thing. When a pastor sees himself as a dictator it is never a good thing. It is like a single cancer cell that will eventually destroy the whole body. The church is one body united in Christ.

The first infrastructure of the church of God is GOD’S MINISTER.

In tomorrow’s post we will examine the Second Part of the Infrastructure of the Church of God.

Resource: MacArthur, John. 1 Corinthians. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1984.

The Church of God is the first in the Sermon Series Church 101: A Study of 1 Corinthians at Living Oaks Baptist Church in Tulsa, OK.

Join us at 10:45 AM each Sunday for contemporary music and worship as we continue the series Church 101.

Living Oaks Baptist Church
8855 E 91st St
Tulsa, OK 74133
www.lobc.net
918-250-0210

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Why Practice Spiritual Disciplines?

whyIn Donald Whitney’s post “Remember, Every Spiritual Discipline Is About Jesus” he asks and answers some great questions.

Whitney writes:

Why pray when it appears that your prayers go unanswered? Why keep on reading the Bible when it seems like you’re getting little from it? Why continue worshiping God privately when you feel no spiritual refreshment? Why persist in keeping a journal when writing your entries bores you? Why engage in fasting, silence and solitude, serving, and other spiritual disciplines when you sense meager benefits from doing so?

It’s easy to forget the real purpose of anything that’s as habitual as the activities of the spiritual life. And purposeless spiritual practices soon become . . .

To continue reading follow this link to The Center for Biblical Spirituality.

 

Using The Model Prayer For A Specific Prayer Request  (Matt. 6:9-13 Sermon)

If you are looking for some godly advice on how to improve your prayer life, you will enjoy this post by Shawn Thomas. Shawn uses the Model Prayer from Matthew 6.9-13 as a guide on how to pray.
I have known Shawn for several years, and he has greatly blessed my life. If you take the time to read and follow his Biblical teaching on this subject, you too will be blessed!

shawnethomas

(Preaached at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, Wed. p.m.  6-03-15)

If you have ever prayed very long (months or years) for a special prayer request, you know that it can be easy to fall into a “rut” in the way that you pray. You can end up just saying the same things to God over and over, and it can become like the “meaningless repetition” that Jesus talked about in Matthew 6:7. So what can you do to get out of that “rut” in your prayers? 

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The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention

This post by Pastor Doug Munton is well written and worth taking the time to read.

Doug Munton

I’m neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. That’s a bad start for confidence in my predictive powers. But let me speculate on the future of the Southern Baptist Convention with whom I have been associated my entire life.

In many ways I am describing what is more than what will be. Perhaps this is more of where we are then where we are headed. While it seems likely we will have more of what we currently have, God can change things dramatically. Perhaps we will have a great revival. Perhaps we will have ruin. But here is where it seems we are and where we are headed. (Keep in mind the “neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet” part.)

1. We will be less

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Is Christianity Dying?

Dying ChurchIn his post “Is Christianity Dying?Dr. Russell Moore gives Christians another way to look at the secularization of America.

Dr. Moore writes:

Christianity is dying. At least, that’s what major newspapers are telling us today, culling research from a new Pew Center study on what almost all sociologists are observing these days—the number of Americans who identify as Christians has reached an all-time low, and is falling. I think this is perhaps bad news for America, but it is good news for the church.

The lead editor of the report tells The New York Times that secularization—mainly in terms of those who identify as “nones” or with no specific religious affiliation—isn’t isolated to the progressive Northeast and Pacific Northwest. He notes, “The change is taking place all over, including the Bible Belt.”

This is precisely what several of us have been saying for years. Bible Belt near-Christianity is teetering. I say let it fall. For much of the twentieth century, especially in the South and parts of the Midwest, one had to at least claim to be a Christian to be “normal.” During the Cold War, that meant distinguishing oneself from atheistic Communism. At other times, it has meant seeing churchgoing as a way to be seen as a good parent, a good neighbor, and a regular person. It took courage to be an atheist, because explicit unbelief meant social marginalization. Rising rates of secularization, along with individualism, means that those days are over—and good riddance to them.

Again, this means some bad things for the American social compact. In the Bible Belt of, say, the 1940s, there were people who didn’t, for example, divorce, even though they wanted out of their marriages. In many of these cases, the motive wasn’t obedience to Jesus’ command on marriage but instead because they knew that a divorce would marginalize them from their communities. In that sense, their “traditional family values” were motivated by the same thing that motivated the religious leaders who rejected Jesus—fear of being “put out of the synagogue.” Now, to be sure, that kept some children in intact families. But that’s hardly revival.

Secularization in America means that we have fewer incognito atheists. Those who don’t believe can say so—and still find spouses, get jobs, volunteer with the PTA, and even run for office. This is good news because the kind of “Christianity” that is a means to an end—even if that end is “traditional family values”—is what J. Gresham Machen rightly called “liberalism,” and it is an entirely different religion from the apostolic faith handed down by Jesus Christ.

Now, what some will say is that the decline in self-identified Christians is a sign that the church should jettison its more unpopular teachings. And in our day, these teachings are almost always those dealing with pelvic autonomy. First of all, even if this were the key to success, we couldn’t—and wouldn’t—do it. Christianity isn’t a political party, dependent on crafting ideologies to suit the masses. We received this gospel (Gal. 1:11-12); we didn’t invent it. But, that said, such is not the means to “success”—even the way the sociologists define it.

The Pew report holds that mainline denominations—those who have made their peace with the Sexual Revolution—continue to report heavy losses, while evangelical churches remain remarkably steady—even against some heavy headwinds coming from the other direction. Why?

We learned this answer 100 years ago, and it reminds us of what we learned 2,000 years ago. Two or three generations ago, Christians who held to the Virgin birth of Christ were warned that their children would flee the faith unless the parents redefined Christianity. “If you want to win the next generation,” they were told, “you have to make Christianity relevant, and that means dispending with miracles in favor of modern science.” The churches that followed that path aren’t just dying; they are dead, sustained by endowments and dwindling gatherings of nostalgic senior adults with a smattering of community organizers here and there.

People who don’t want Christianity, don’t want almost-Christianity. Almost-Christianity looks in the mainline like something from Nelson Rockefeller to Che Guevara at prayer. Almost Christianity, in the Bible Belt, looks like a God-and-Country civil religion that prizes cultural conservatism more than theological fidelity. Either way, a Christianity that reflects its culture, whether that culture is Smith College or NASCAR, only lasts as long as it is useful to its host. That’s because it’s, at root, idolatry, and people turn from their idols when they stop sending rain.

Christianity isn’t normal anymore, and that’s good news. The Book of Acts, like the Gospels before it, shows us that the Christianity thrives when it is, as Kierkegaard put it, a sign of contradiction. Only a strange gospel can differentiate itself from the worlds we construct. But the strange, freakish, foolish old gospel is what God uses to save people and to resurrect churches (1 Cor. 1:20-22).

We do not have more atheists in America. We have more honest atheists in America. Again, that’s good news. The gospel comes to sinners, not to the righteous. It is easier to speak a gospel to the lost than it is to speak a gospel to the kind-of-saved. And what those honest atheists grapple with, is what every sinner grapples with, burdened consciences that point to judgment. Our calling is to bear witness.

We don’t have Mayberry anymore, if we ever did. Good. Mayberry leads to hell just as surely as Gomorrah does. But Christianity didn’t come from Mayberry in the first place, but from a Roman Empire hostile to the core to the idea of a crucified and resurrected Messiah. We’ve been on the wrong side of history since Rome, and it was enough to turn the world upside down.

The future of Christianity is bright. I don’t know that from surveys and polls, but from a word Someone spoke one day back at Caesarea Philippi. The gates of hell haven’t gotten any stronger, and the Light that drives out the darkness is enough to counter every rival gospel, even those gospels that describe themselves as “none.”

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For more on this, see my new book Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel.

SOURCE: Moore to the Point