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Perusal - Spring 2017, Are We Called to Change the World?


Perusal* – Spring 2017, Are We Called to Change the World?

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

 

John 18:36, “…my kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here.”

 

We hear this phrase often. So, what does it mean?  And are believers responsible to “change the world”?  Can conservative political agendas and strict interpretations of the U.S. Constitution aid the church in “changing the world?”  And is our Lord Jesus more interested in a return to traditional values as He is the proclamation of His gospel? 

Do not misunderstand the introduction.  We should applaud scriptural principles and “traditional family values” because they are biblical.  They contribute to stable social mores and a culture that is less hostile to the Christian faith.  But that doesn’t mean there is a balm in Gilead or a political Jesus arranging the clouds so that every cultural wind blows favorably for believers.

Even a cursory knowledge of Jesus’ ministry on earth reveals a man that was extraordinarily indifferent about the politics of His day.  The apostles after Christ’s resurrection seemed dis-engaged too, reminding the church to endure the wickedness of the Pharisees and Caesars.  “Render to Caesar” our Lord cried and Paul challenged the church at Rome to “as much as is in you, live peaceably with ALL men”.  To be sure Jesus did forcibly remove the money-changers, and derided the Pharisees for being “blind leaders of the blind.”  But He passionately preached that there is little hope for this world apart from the truth of His Gospel. 

Much of the evangelical culture has been overtaken by the drama queenery of hyper-individualism.  It is the sin of pride to think that we have the skill sets to “change the world”.  Only our sovereign Lord can change the world, and does in the redeeming of the souls of sinners, not changing the cultures that drown sinners. In our zeal we are guilty of placing the proverbial cart before the horse!

John 18 records Jesus’s intimate conversations with Pontius Pilate. Pilate proclaimed his imaginary control over the incarnate Christ.  “I have the power…” he exclaimed. “Rome has changed the world Jesus, don’t you know that?” Facing crucifixion, Jesus is unconcerned about Pilate or his power play. “My kingdom”, he begins, “is not of your making, so it cannot be unmade by you.  If this world was My kingdom, my servants would fight…but My kingdom is not from here.”  Christ’s kingdom is open to all that come to Him as sinners, repent and believe. He is the Lord and Savior of the world, especially of those that believe. His salvation is utterly gratuitous, open to all, even the most heinous sinner.  The Puritan John Duncan stated, “Christ Jesus came to save dire sinners; John Duncan is a dire sinner, so Christ Jesus came to save John Duncan.”  Each is compelled to come to Christ, even charged to come, expected to come, and they have a warrant from God the Father to believe in the Gospel of His dear Son.

The passion of our Lord Jesus was the most compelling event in all human history.  His death accomplished so many wonderful things for sinners among them our reconciliation back to God the Father.  The bible declares that all were at one time alienated from and hostile to God, naturally suppressing the truth about Him.  We were blinded by the god of this world and oblivious to the depth of our radical rebellion.  Thankfully, the Holy Spirit can open hearts to the truth of God’s word and His amazing love that has “…reconciled (us) in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy…and above reproach before him.” Col. 1:21-22.

Jesus the Christ changed the world for sinners, one painful step at a time up Golgotha’s hill and each resurrected step out of the tomb!  God moves toward sinners in Christ Jesus.  He moved toward Adam and Eve in Eden, Cain after he killed Abel, Noah before the flood, Abram while a pagan moon god worshiper, Moses in the burning bush, David while tending his father’s flocks, Elijah after Mt. Carmel, Isaiah in the vision of God’s holiness, Jeremiah in a miry pit of clay, and Daniel in a den of lions.  He moved into lives of mere fishermen and tax collectors, prostitutes, priests, persecutors, and Caesars. These are the kingdoms of the world that Jesus changed! Spiritual kingdoms that we cannot see but know exist.  Kingdoms transformed by the earnest, consistent and compelling prayer of God’s people.  Kingdoms brought to their knees by the preaching and teaching of God’s word.  Lives changed, freed from sin and educated to become lights that shine in the very dark places of this world.

Our Lord’s cry is still “Look unto Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” Is.45:22.    God is always bringing us to our knees that He may press upon our hearts the fact that He is God alone! Change is an intentional ramification of someone coming to faith in Christ. He says, “look to me”, gaze at my love in Jesus on the Cross and be reconciled to a kingdom unseen except by faith in this life!

Happy Easter!  The Gospel is only good news because Jesus rose from the dead! Because He lives, I can face anything tomorrow may send my way!

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

 

 Perusal* – Winter 2016, Reflections on Thanksgiving & Advent

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

 

Isaiah 11:9, “…for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”

 

This was the year that was!  Pollsters predicted the United Kingdom (UK) would vote to remain in the European Union.  “Brexit”, as the populist movement became known, was touted as the beginning of the Apocalypse.  All manner of doom and gloom was prophesied about the fall of Britain and economic collapse.  Brexit was followed recently by another chink in the armor of the infallible media, the astonishing victory of Donald J. Trump as America’s 45th president.  The pundits continue to search the heavens for further signs of the Apocalypse.

Add to the above the feats in the world of sports: The Chicago Cubs took an exciting World Series, their first title in over 100 years. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship bringing the first global title to Cleveland in over 50 years.  The Olympics in Rio, Payton Manning and the Denver Broncos, 1st real College football playoff…and this year is one that will be written about for many, many, years.  What does 2016 portend for the world? Only our Lord knows, but assuredly He does know!

Yes, another amazing year of change.  Some call the change “radical” which has become perhaps the most overused word in the English language.  Colleges are churning out young minds that have been persuaded that the old guard is very old, outdated and wrong, even radical.  America’s Constitution is disregarded and in need of being revised and redacted, or at least interpreted in concert with the 21st century.  Sounds very much like most folks approach to the Bible.  Thankfully, “the Word of God endures throughout all generations”; 1 Peter 1:25.

2016 caught everyone by surprise.  A sullied presidential campaign has left most American’s and the world gasping for breath.  We have endured assaults from the right and the left and are smack dab in the middle of the “cult of the personality.” Politicians, entertainers, athletes, even pastors and churches have their eyes glazed over by promises of greatness.  Drama queenery is the order of our day driven by just enough truth to appear to be fact.  “My people, Hosea prophesied for Jehovah, “are being destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hos. 4:6.  Can I get an “Amen!”

We will remember the speed of change from 2016 as a seismic shift from progressive mores to traditional values.  Is our tragic lack of knowledge about God being rewarded?  Churches should be the first to repent of the sin of thinking that politics is a substitute for sound, biblical, expositional preaching.  Churches have exchanged “thus says the Lord” for the story narrative, or the “Five Easy Ways to Procure God’s Blessings.”  Learning about our Lord should humble believers – there isn’t a mandate for pride because of our accomplishments.

Isaiah preached to the tribe of Judah around 700 B.C. lamenting the sorry, ungodly way they lived.  In Chapter 11 he prophesied about a coming Messiah and His role in the restoration of Judah, Israel, and the whole world.  In the middle of the chapter Isaiah breaks into a doxology declaring that one day the earth will not lack for knowing how to walk with God and not just to talk about Him.  His prophecy is very clear - God requires knowledge of Him so that we might glorify Him. 

The Christmas season celebrates the Incarnation of Jesus Christ as the God/Man that displays the Trinity’s glory.  We do not have to guess about God any more, we see Him as He is in Jesus Christ.  There is a path to peace in this life and it begins with exposure to the God’s Word for “the entrance of your word gives light”.  Professing believers know a great deal more about the contemporary world than we do about Him and assume that a shift in the political demographic is pleasing to God because it may, for a time, rewind the clock.  But does it?  Is not our Lord’s cry still “Look unto Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” Is.45:22.   

God is always bringing us to our knees that He may press upon our hearts the fact that He is Other! He isn’t saying, “You will be saved because the political winds have shifted.  He isn’t saying, “You are more loved because a certain wall of morality is built.”  No, He says, “look to me, and gaze at my love in Jesus on the Cross. Relish the assurance of faith in our Lord in spite of what the culture may hurl at you.”

2016 has been a year of rapid change and losses that have left us reeling: Antonin Scalia, a strict constitutionalist Supreme Court Justice, died. He was considered by many, even his detractors, a legal genius.  I am reminded of one of his quotes, “It is difficult to maintain the illusion that we are interpreting a Constitution, rather than inventing one, when we amend its provisions so breezily.”

Add to Scalia, Arnold Palmer, Merle Haggard, and in my opinion, the not so great; Prince, David Bowie, and several transgender personalities not even worth mentioning. Yes, many were talented; being created in God’s image provides extraordinary talent even if it is abused.  And since we are created in His image, then our lives should reflect His character.  Thankfully He reconciles us to Himself in His Son Jesus Christ. 

Perhaps you are overwhelmed by the change or may have suffered an excruciating loss during 2016.  Be reminded that the Trinity suffered an even greater loss when Christ Jesus became incarnate and was eventually crucified.  The great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote about Jesus’ suffering in this manner:

“It was a lingering death, but love survived the torment; a shameful death, but love despised the shame; a penal death, but love bore our iniquities; a forsaken, lonely death, from which the eternal Father hid His face, but love endured the curse and triumphed over all. There never was such love, never such a death. It was a desperate duel, but love bore the pain.”

Change is inevitable and even what is hoped to be a pause in the duplicity of our country will be short lived.  So, we should be thankful for the gospel of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. This is the truth of Christmas – indeed it is the truth of all time!

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas! My prayer is that 2017 will be the best year for our maturation in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

 

Perusal* – Summer 2016, Truth or Consequences….

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

“The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That, that my friends, that is true perversion!” 
 Harvey Milk

John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

-     Jesus Christ

Facts are strange birds.  They frighten most people and contribute to denial of truth. Not facts alone, but the failure of good people to perform due diligence and determine if the stated fact is indeed “fact.”  Notice the first statement.  Most people will subscribe to Mr. Milk’s alleged statement and declare it to be truth.  But is it?  One has only to search the annuals of fairly recent history to find that totalitarian regimes have murdered tens of millions of their peoples.  Communism under Marxists’ philosophy has killed an estimate 60-70 million of its adherents.   This is not to slight “religious” terrorism or the many indeed killed because of religious ideology.  It is estimated that ~ 15-50 million were killed by the Roman Catholic Church during the Crusades and the Protestant Reformation. All this carnage only solidifies the fact that all people are sinners, devoid of genuine love and filled with a natural capacity to hate.  Ideology only brings out the vitriol in our souls.

Once again America has been witness to a tragic and horrific incident.  Orlando is just another sign post on the twisted road that includes Sandy Hook, Aurora, Fort Hood, San Bernardino, New York City, Oklahoma City, and sadly too many others to mention.  And the tragedy is not isolated to American shores.  Paris, London, Brussels, Istanbul, Baghdad, Malaysia, just to name a few, have been sites of extremists’ murderers in the name of Allah.  We are engaged in a war without borders and one, unfortunately, which will not end with the signing of a peace treaty.

What are believers to do in light of such diabolical evil?  Jesus taught the facts about Satan, our accuser - he steals life and destroys it.  There is something incredibly satanic about murdering innocent folk, whether they are steeped in sin or not.  After all we are all made in His image but have sinned against Him and are guilty before God.  But in Jesus Christ an abundant life can be had through faith in Him alone.  

There is a desperate cry from the world when such tragedies occur.  It is a cry of pain and such cries should be met with our Prayers.  Scott Smith wrote some years ago after the Newtown, Ct shootings “Some stories are just too much for us to absorb; some evil just too great to conceive; some losses beyond all measurability… That you wept outside the tomb of a beloved friend frees us to groan and mourn; that you conquered his death with yours, frees us to hope and wait. But we turn our thoughts from ourselves to the families who have suffered an unconscionable violation of heart and all sensibilities. Bring your presence to bear, Lord Jesus, by your Spirit and through your people. May your servants weep with those who weep and wail with those who wail — reach into this great tragedy with an even greater grace.” 

So we should pray.  And we should give Pause.  I admit that I turned to the internet, social media, and TV for the “latest” news about Orlando.  In retrospect we should give pause to think about the families of the murdered, and reflect on our relationship with the triune God rather than rush to engage the social media tools.  When loved ones pass from this life into the next it is a time for reflection, for meditation, and for renewing our commitment to our Lord.  May we take the time to pause and remember the goodness of God leads us to repentance.

Pray, pause, and Grieve. The clarion call is for legislature to “do something to fix this.”  Can they?  There are situations in life that cannot be fixed.  People are not faucets - an adjustment here, a tightening there, and their mood is “fixed”.  We are human, and our hurt is often deep and sometime inconsolable for the remainder of our mortal lives.  This is why Jesus, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, can console.  He “endured the pain and despised the shame” of an ugly Roman cross to assuage His father’s wrath and forgive us of our trespasses.

Pray, pause, grieve, and Love.  It is difficult to love those different from us, but our Lord “demonstrated his love to us while we were still sinners” in dying for mankind. He came to rescue the perishing, care for the dying, and snatch sinners from a sure hell.  This is fact.  “God is Love”.  And His love reaches to my soul and to yours.  May we love in His grace and in deeds, helping those that may be hardest to love.

Pray, pause, grieve, love and Hope.  Paul wrote, “If in Christ we have hope for this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”  Death is the sword of sin, cutting deep and sparing no one.  Erik Raymond wrote after another tragic shooting in Omaha 2007:

“Yes sin is devastating; death is relentless. And if you and I do not have a true sovereign that can defeat such things with certainty then we are ourselves hopeless. But there is one who is just this sovereign and just this good. The Scripture tells us of Jesus who himself being God became a man with the expressed purpose of defeating death by disarming sin of its power. It is Jesus Christ, the Son of the most high God, who is Sovereign and good, and able to save sinners from the deadly enemy of death. It is Jesus who gave his life as a sufficient sacrifice to pay the death penalty due to rebels like us. He died upon the cross and rose victoriously from the grave. The Scripture says he was “declared the Son of God with power” (Rom. 1.4). His resurrection from the dead is the proof that death and sin have been defeated.”

Hope is a human resolve granted to us by our Creator because we are made in His image.  Life does not have to be this way.  An abundant life is for those that repent of our sins and believe in the One alone that can give us eternal life.

A.W. Tozer said, “A whole new generation of Christians have come up believing that it is possible to ‘accept’ Christ without forsaking the world.”  May our repentance be genuinely brought about by the Holy Spirit so that we might influence our world with the love and hope in Christ Jesus.

Jesus faced a tragedy with a similar story as the one that we have today. Many folks died and the people questioned how they should react to it. Jesus’ answers were amazingly short and profound. He said, “Unless you repent you too will perish” (Luke 13.3).

This is the message in this tragedy. Yes this is horrible. Yes it hurts. But the greater tragedy is to turn away from such things without repenting, or turning from sin.  Let us pray, pause, grief, love and foster hope to a lost and dying world.  May we show them the Christ that not only promises abundant life, but provides the abundant life.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Pastor Carey

 

 

 

 

Perusal* – Spring 2016, Skeptics and the Resurrection

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

John 20:26: “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

In 1961 four lads from Liverpool met with Decca Records to discuss a new artist contract.  After listening to the group play two songs, “Please, Please Me” and “Love Me do” the consensus was their music was not in the current pop mainstream.  The lads were told, “guitar bands are on the way out!” In 1962 their manager, Brian Epstein, contacted a friend of his, George Martin, and arranged an audition for the group.  Martin listened politely and then commented, “I think with some arrangement the songs may sell.”  The four lads, John, Paul, George, and a late addition to the Beatles, Ringo Starr, were signed to Parlophone, EMI’s smaller label.  The rest of the story is pop music history!

Skeptics often guess and at times they guess wrong.  And when they do they get it terribly wrong.  Jesus’ disciples were not pre-disposed to belief in the validity of the resurrection.  After all, no one had ever risen from the dead of his own accord.  Peter and John were not convinced by the women returning from the tomb and their claim that Jesus’ body was missing.  They ran to see for themselves and later that first Sunday witnessed Jesus appearing in the Upper Room, the very same room in which he had promised his being raised from the dead.

Thomas was not with the other ten when Jesus appeared on the first resurrection Sunday. It was the next Sunday, a full week after that Thomas witnessed his Lord.  He fell victim to a season of doubt.  “Doubting” Thomas!  He has been called “doubting” for a very long time.  But don’t we all doubt?  Doubtless events, circumstances, troubles, insufficient information and many other issues confound and confuse our finite minds.  Try as we might, we sometimes are riddled with doubts.  And Thomas was experiencing the human condition.

Jesus convinced his followers that He was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament.  But Messiahs do not die, especially from the cruel and torturous manner of crucifixion.   All the disciples were in doubt of the resurrection, not just Thomas.  They had seen and touched Christ Jesus the week before and their doubts were answered.  But Thomas had a crisis of conscience, he doubted their testimony like so very many today doubt the tangible, physical resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

Maybe Thomas had a bit of Missourian in him – he was from the “show me” state or region of Palestine.  Jesus satisfied his longing mind.  I’m certain Thomas wanted the resurrection of God the Son to be true, but was hesitant because of sin.  Sin causes unbelief, whether in recording companies or individuals…”be not faithless, but believing.”  How can our disposition to doubt be eclipsed?  God’s Spirit must convince us that His word is truth and His truth is the most valuable evidence for life after this life in this mortal world.  God alone brings us to salvation as Jesus alone brought Thomas to the reality of His physical resurrection.  “Reach out your hands and touch me” he said.  Confirm my flesh, feel the wounds from my scars.  “Don’t be a skeptic, but believe!” 

There is much to be skeptical of in our fallen world, but faith in Jesus Christ and His glorious resurrection should be the one event that transforms our doubts.  Doubtless, is the antithesis of doubting. Doubtless there would not be hope in the hereafter without the Resurrection.  Do not make the skeptical mistake that Decca records did in 1961.  Listen to the music of God’s love for you and take hold of His promises in the grace of Jesus Christ to all that repent of their sins and believe.  He brings us to the place of choosing with the truth of His word.  We are blessed if we believe without seeing, though the truth is, we have seen the risen Lord!

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of scripture to you this Easter and that a skeptical heart may be convince of divine truth, transplanted by the risen Lord Jesus Christ!

The Lord is risen indeed!

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey 


Perusal* – Winter 2015, Reflections on Thanksgiving & Advent

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

Col. 4:2-4: Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

 

2015 is quickly coming to a close.  And what a year it has been.  At times this year much of Europe has been either on “lock down” or contemplating next steps to counter the rabid terrorism of Islam.  California is the latest state to experience the mass murder of people, perhaps at the hands of Islamic extremism. I read recently that Islam’s eschatology (vision of the afterlife), which promises up to 72 “houris” (“gazelle eyed women”, loosely translated “virgins”) as eternal companions for the jihadists, is perhaps the strangest and certainly most troubling of religions’ visions of heaven.  While the Christian faith promises an eternal and everlasting life of worship and fellowship with a loving, merciful, and gracious triune God simply by faith alone, Islam ups the ante by encouraging violent martyrdom.  While there are times when believers should defend themselves and their convictions from untruth, the bible encourages us to “preach the gospel of peace” and “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” 

The great contrast between jihad and peace is illustrated in the epistles of Paul.  His epistle to the church in Colosse (meant also for the neighboring church in Laodicea) is laced with counters to false teachings that were prevalent in the Greco-Roman world, especially Gnosticism.  He masterfully illuminates the eternal nature of the Christ Jesus and reminds the believers in Colosse to be aware of philosophical cheaters.  Our world is inundated with such people today, denying the Incarnation of Christ and claiming a natural Spiritism that asserts a mystical union with God. As in all his letters to young, primitive churches, Paul instructs in sound doctrine and corrects false, self-promoting deceit.  He does expect disciples to be consistent in their respect for and allegiance to their local church, reminding them that once born again, the “new man” is renewed in knowledge according to God’s image. He writes to instruct these churches from a heart of peace.

Paul brings the letter to a close with keen instruction for the structure of a Christian home.  Churches are only as strong as the number of strong, holy Christian homes.  He reiterates this in the closing verses, emphasizing the grace of continual prayer.  And the type of prayer he stresses is laced with thanksgiving.  He uses the word “vigilant”, a unique word used to imply “staying awake” and being alert to specific needs of others.  Thanksgiving in the bible is focused on the Gospel, good news indeed.

I am thankful for the Gospel in the incarnate person of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul is always instructing churches to effectively present the Gospel and pray that it might be broadcast. When he instructs individuals it is because they are ministering to local churches to expand the Gospel’s horizons.  While under house arrest in Rome, he asked the Colossians for vigilant prayer that an effective door be opened so that he may speak to those about him the Gospel. Nothing like isolation to make us thankful for our local church!

There is a path to peace and it begins with exposure to the Bible for in it we learn of God.  Once the Holy Spirit has regenerated us by grace alone and we have believed by faith alone, we should meditate on the written word.  Prayer is the natural motivation after contemplation, first for confession of our sins, then a thankful response and praise for salvation via the cross.  When we praise God, he brings others to our mind so that we make intercession for them. Finally we are free to petition our Lord for our own needs.

Prayers that begin focusing on ourselves are misplaced.  We all are needy, but we are not imprisoned.  One of the key components of thanksgiving is the reminder that, except for sin, we are not as desperate as we might think. Others surely have greater needs than I.  This is another reason why our consistency and faithfulness to a local church is vital to engaging prayers.  When the church prays we are reminded that the world is so very much larger than just us and, ultimately, the needs can only be met in the Gospel.  Flat Creek’s focus on prayer is vital to our faith.  Tim Keller in his book “Prayer” says, “Many churches today, especially those with what is called contemporary worship, give the congregants almost no help with prayer at all.”  Corporate prayer is a teaching moment and couple with our private readings of scripture, will over time change our selfish way of praying to praise and honor of Jesus Christ, lifting the needs of those who truly need His intervention for physical, financial, or emotional strength, and molding our prayers for our spiritual growth.  

Being thankful and praying for the gospel is primarily due to the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, the truth of Christmas.  How wonderful that a time of thanksgiving prepares us for Christ’s first advent.

May I ask all of us a question…”when we pray, do we pray for the jihadist that, by God’s amazing grace, they may have the Holy Spirit remove the blinders from their eyes, see Jesus as Lord and Savior, and by faith be transformed into a believer?”

I close this meditation with thoughts from Ravi Zacharias at this time of year:

 

“… I suggest that rather than think of all the bleak things we face let us pause and thank God for the hope He gives even in the darkness. As King George VI said, "I said to the man at the gate of the year, ‘give me a light that I may walk safely into the unknown.’ He said to me, ‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. It shall be to you better than the light and safer than the known’."

Your hand in God's hand is the only experience that will take you safely into the future. That is best done with His word and on your knees. There, let all the earth be silent before Him. With minimal words from your lips, a bounty of peace can descend into your heart. When you draw close to Him you see the temporal through the eyes of the eternal. Lift your eyes on the positive side of blessing and you will see He carries you over the valleys around. In the desert sands, the broken stones may speak. But the mended hearts speak louder.”

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas! My prayer is that 2016 will be the best year for growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ to God’s glory.

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

 

Posted July, 2015 

Perusal* – Summer 2015, A Greater Love!

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

John 15:12-25, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.  No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”

“Love wins!” proclaimed the “winners” of the decision made by the SCOTUS on June 26, 2015. Did love win in the manner that Jesus declared to his disciples in John 15?  And does the “rest of the story” in John 15, the scriptures that follow about the “world hates you…” does that paint a picture of what may lie beneath the 5-4 decision?  Would anyone have dreamed twenty years ago when the Defense of Marriage Act was passed that five academics and lawyers would unilaterally redefine for America the crucible of all human foundations – marriage?

A great deal could be written about the ramifications of this decision, but let’s briefly examine how America evolved to this point.  Recently our country celebrated July 4th, the two hundred and thirty ninth anniversary of our Declaration of Independence.  Thomas Jefferson, its author, wrote that human liberty was grounded in self-evident truth, meaning that truth is not an individual right, but is discovered by careful and courageous examination of verifiable facts.  Justice Anthony Kennedy redefined Jefferson’s understanding of truth in a 1992 SCOTUS decision, reaffirming the Roe v. Wade abortion disaster of 1973.  He wrote, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Sounds like the lines from a Seinfeld episode in the nineties, “it isn’t a lie if you believe it to be true.”

What does it matter if two men or women “love” each other?  How could that possibly impact anyone?  Well, it has.  Brendan Eich, the CEO of Mozilla (Firefox) was forced to resign because he made a $1000 donation to California’s Proposition 8, the ballot measure on which the people of California voted to ban same-sex marriages.  Chick-fil-A was banned from Chicago and Boston because the mayors disagreed with the traditional marriage position of the CEO of the fast food chain.  And many more; the hundreds of peripheral businesses that support the wedding industry that have refused or may refuse to cater a gay wedding, have already been impacted because a rabid judicial branch took it upon themselves to tell the American people that most of us have been wrong-headed, intolerant, and just plain stupid when it comes to our God-given right to ascribe to heterosexual marriage. 

This really should not surprise anyone. For many years marriage has suffered at the hands of self-indulgent men and women bent on redefining it for themselves.  Child and spousal abuse has risen substantially because a decline in strong, healthy marriages has corrupted our basic understanding of the true nature of marriage.  Folks are always looking for their soul-mate, and should they be found outside of their current marriage, just divorce to find true happiness and personal fulfillment.  Justices Kennedy, Sotomayor, Kagan, Breyer, and Ginsburg did not arrive at these conclusions single-handedly, they only tapped into the drift in our culture and identified with the “truth is what I define it to be “crowd.

Added to the marriage confusion is the transgender illusion. Is all of our existence now defined by what I may feel at any particular point in my life?  What if I get it wrong and make a decision that later I come to regret?  Many amoral people our confused about who they are and about their place in humanity.  These decisions have troubled men and women since creation – Adam sought to disbelieve what God told him clearly and ventured into disobedience.  And so it goes.  Submission to and directed by the living Word of God provides the hope for clarity.  “These things I command you”, Jesus stated.  Humanity must grasp the unalterable fact that there is an Authority greater than our feeble, duplicitous minds.

 

There was a time in our nation that truth was defined as Jefferson and most everyone before him knew it to be. Trevin Wax, editor of Lifeway Resources, wrote recently, “The reality is, it takes absolutely no courage in an age of self-expression to create and live by your own standards. Instead, true courage is not deciding for yourself what is “right and wrong,” but seeking to discover what truly is right and wrong — for yourself and for everybody else. It takes courage to look outside yourself, to bind your heart to an ideal that is bigger than your own set of standards, to investigate truth rather than invent it.”

 

Flat Creek, a number of years ago witnessing the amoral and immoral drift of the USA, added a clarification to our church constitution, that basically states that marriages which take place in the Flat Creek Baptist Church will be celebrated between a man and woman only.  Thousands of years of human history supports this, but, more importantly, God's word is unalterable in its declaration for intimacy between those created male and female. 

Jesus confirmed marriage as between a man and woman in Matthew 19.  The truth is, the love of Christ is greater than ANY human love.  And when He loves in grace it causes division. Grace disrupts our predilection for works based acceptance, whether in marriage or life as a whole.  Grace is disruptive before it is redemptive.  He knew all of His followers would become hated by the world, because he knew grace drives a stake deep into the heart of self-made truth.  Homosexual marriage is not the world’s greatest sin; unbelief fits that bill. “I am the way, and the truth, and life…” Jesus exclaimed.  Yes, Christ Jesus takes everyone as they are, but He does not leave us to wallow in the fantasy land of our own trumped up truth.  He would call this a lie.  He laid down his life so that we might be changed by his message of truth.  The good news is that he went willingly to a cross to pay His father’s ransom for all sin, any sin, even unbelief.  No greater love than this has ever existed!

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

 

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail) 

Hebrews 7:25; Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Disease is something all of us suffer.  It could be the “common” cold, the latest strain of flu, or the “emperor of all maladies”, cancer.  Our Creator has formed bodies with an immune system that identifies the invading germ and with laser like precision narrows its attack on the virus or bacteria that are doing us harm.  Except for cancer.  We now know that cancer cells are our own cells that have mutated and grow exponentially, masquerading as good cells and like a machine, methodically killing us from the inside.

Sin is very much like cancers.  Often we do not feel its consequences or see its devastation until far too late.  It is natural to our mortal bodies and minds, so much so that it will bring about physical, but more importantly, spiritual death.  If ignored, or avoided, sin eventually controls us, corrupting minds and bodies with ungodly thoughts and  crippling ends. The triune God knows this so much better than we mortals.  True to His word in Genesis 3 when he promised Adam and Eve they would surely die if they disobeyed His law, He also was true to bring about the cure for our sin, Jesus Christ, God the Son!

We may want to cure dreaded diseases, keep our children from unholy people claiming wrong as right, and stopping pilots from intentionally flying planes into the ground.  We want to, but cannot.  We do not have the ability. We may want to prolong life with no fear of diseases’ consequences.  Scientists and doctors have made great strides to eradicate disease from earth, but new ones arise that will continue to stretch their mental capacitates. Their ability is limited to the one thing that keeps them from finishing their work - their own death.

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of David.  He fulfilled all scripture that pertains to the Messiah (Luke 24:44). His incarnation provided to humanity he is the greatest of all Prophets.  He now graciously is our high priest and will very soon return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Be reminded that there is no resurrection without the ignominious suffering of the cross.  The author of Hebrews tells his readers that our salvation is due to Christ Jesus ability to save, literally our salvation is “fully ended, completed”.  So, it begs the question, what are we saved from…why do we need to be saved?

John Piper writes, “If, to be saved forever, we need Christ to intercede for us forever with God, then what is the implication about what we need saving from? The implication is that we need to be saved from God. Specifically we need to be saved from the wrath of God that burns against all ungodliness and unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). Christ can save us forever from the wrath of God because he intercedes forever with God. He continually puts himself between the Father and us as an asbestos shield against his white-hot anger against sin. Hebrews 10:30-31 says, "We know Him who said, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord will judge his people.' It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

Thankfully, the resurrection signaled to all time that the Son of God’s cruel death assuaged God the Father’s intense wrath against sin.  It follows that what Jesus endured on Calvary continues today in God’s throne room of heaven.  His role as prophet was completed on Golgotha’s hill and our Lord is now our great high priest making intercession for his children.  God did that for his children.  He ordained a Prophet and a High priest, God the Son, who lives to intercede.  Jesus doesn’t need to plead his case with our Father. The resurrection proved God’s complete and final acceptance of His Son’s sacrifice and ordained Jesus as our great high priest.

The Gospel is simple in demonstration of faith, but complex in its execution. Simply, the good news is that the just and gracious Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women and has sent his Son, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show power over sin in the resurrection, so that everyone who turns from their sin and themselves and trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be reconciled to God forever.”

The execution of the Gospel demonstrates to all that would repent and believe that the love of God rescues us from the wrath of God, in such a way that the justice of God is vindicated and the glory of God is exalted.

The Trinity’s justice was vindicated in Jesus’ death and the glory of God is revealed by raising Christ from the dead.  God is for you and I and wants to be with us.  Do we want to be with Him?  God brings peace in the Gospel of a Person, Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 13: 20 “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Thankfully, the resurrection accords to believers an able Savior, resurrected and alive forevermore, making eternal intercession before the throne of God.  Jesus prays for us and that secures our salvation!

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of scripture to you this Easter and that you might confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The Lord is raised indeed!

Sola Deo Gloria!

Pastor Carey

 

 Perusal* – Winter 2015, Reflections on Cabin Fever…

 

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

 

Psalms 62:1; For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.

2    He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

 

This is being written on a Sunday morning.  Robby & I are not with our Flat Creek family and we miss them.  The providence of our great and sovereign God has determined that the mildness of the winter in December through to almost the end of February would be interrupted this week.  This has been the coldest week in the history of central Virginia, at least as far back as the 1840’s when records were started.  In fact, Friday morning was the coldest day ever in central Virginia; -11o F.  Where are the geniuses forecasting an apocalyptic “global warming”?

Cabin fever is the hot topic among central Virginians.  Our youngest daughter Megan Epps and her family, Dean, Wyatt, and Sawyer, were featured on our local TV station in Lynchburg, WSET, talking about “cabin fever”.  The New England states have had it much worse than Virginians – over 100” of snow and also record, bitter cold.  Perhaps they can give us some pointers on surviving “real” cabin fever.

So, what should believers think during these abnormal weather days?  Our Lord often reminds us in His word to “Be still and know that I am God”, Ps. 46:10. But how often are we “still”, or “silent”, or “peaceful”?  Our days and weeks are filled with activity, entertainment, busyness, and sometimes, just plain nosiness.  The ordinary drumbeat of our lives must be titillated with extra sensory experiences, even in our churches.  Acts of God today are no longer just weather phenomena; they must be resounding miraculous events or circumstances.  We must feel the “earth move under my feet” (w/ apologies to Carole King). Little do we think of God’s sustaining grace every single day of our lives through the means He has ordained to grow us in his grace – preaching, teaching, and the ordinances of baptism and celebration of Lord’s Supper.

During this winter time and especially on an inclement Lord’s Day, what better opportunity to reflect, in silence, on His gift of salvation in God the Son.  “I am making Jesus”, we say, “my personal Lord and Savior”, as if we could make him anything!  This assumes we start as autonomous individuals that “own” ourselves, forgetting that “You are not our own” (1 Cor. 6:18).  We have traded the Savior in exchange for whatever He can give us in return.  The Gospel, the Good News, is that Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior. We do not make him anything! It is what He has made us – coheirs of his estate and adopted as his brothers and sisters. Good to meditate in silence on the true rock of our salvation.

David talks of his Lord as his “fortress”, or so says the ESV (Easy Southern Version, or English Standard Version, whichever you prefer).  The KJV uses the English word “defense”.  Both are appropriate.  David was longing for a refuge from Absalom, his treasonous son.  The word can mean “an isolated cliff, lofty and inaccessible”.  It is thought to be Misgab in Moab, a strong citadel built in the highlands.  David often wrote of hiding places, isolated venues to escape his enemies and reflect on Gods’ great stability and salvation.   

Christ Jesus is God incarnate, divinely human and humanly divine.  Michael Horton writes, “He did not remain in heaven while writing messages in the sky or on giant screens. He sent prophets in His name and, in the fullness of time, he came down himself – assuming our flesh.”  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn. 10:27). Do you know the Savior in silence? Are you satisfied with His ordinary influences in your believing life? Remember, we cannot make God any greater than He is.  The ordinary triune God is always extraordinary!  We don’t need another hero and need not to make Christ Jesus our hero.  He is our Savior, Redeemer, Friend, Counselor, Fortress, elder Brother, Creator, and Judge.  Reflect on these things silently, humbly, steadily; in the ordinary course of day to day life!

Cabin fever is meant to cause us pause, meditation, reflection, and serenity in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Sola Deo Gloria!

 

Pastor Carey

 

 Perusal* – Autumn 2014, Reflections on Church Skeletons…

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

1 Corinthians 3:9-11 - For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. 10. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The summer is passing rapidly and my favorite season of the year is approaching – autumn! Summer’s humidity is waning and fall’s crispness is waxing.   The mornings begin with the mist of late summer, a fog that reminds us that much of life is lived, as C. S. Lewis wrote, in the shadows. The evenings end with the chorus of tree frogs signaling a change is coming. Our God has so elegantly ordered His universe with reminders that He set the foundations of the earth and upholds them through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The local church also is ordered by our Lord.  He created structure for His universe, and instruction for His church, His body.  Churches need foundation, structure, a skeleton to support the Body.  Thankfully the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ and He left wise instructions for the care of His body!

Flat Creek will begin to study a little book by Jonathan Leeman entitled, “Church Membership, How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus”, beginning September 14 at 6:30 p.m.  I don’t think that there is any other biblical doctrine as ignored today as that of the local church.  In fact, many professing believers have assumed that the local church can be easily snubbed.  Let them “go through the motions”, my personal needs and objectives supersede the uninformed in the local church. Where do we learn of proper Christian behavior, from the church or our intuitions? I like what 9 Marks ministries states, “Ask the Bible, not the Crowd.”

So, what do the scriptures say about church membership?  Two thirds of the NT was written to local churches it stands to reason that believers should be baptized and take their place in a local church. Paul apparently was faced with similar factions in the Corinthian Church.  He adroitly moves to correct the factions and friction in the first 4 chapters.  Paul reminds the factions that the Holy Spirit sent him to Corinth for the purpose of establishing a church there.  He starts with a skeleton, a foundation, and teaches them the foundation for the church is the Lord.  Christ Jesus builds His church as his body through the teaching in the Gospels and re-enforcement in the Epistles.

Jesus, and subsequently his apostles, understood that born again believers need instruction and discipline with reference to the use of their respective gifts in the local church.  Paul speaks of this in the latter chapters of 1 Corinthians.  By deduction and direction of the Holy Spirit we learn that converted people are to be associated with a sound, healthy local church.  Here we learn to have no other gods before the triune God, honor and respect and obey God’s word, love the brethren, love our enemies, and evangelize the world with the powerful truth of the Gospel.

Christ Jesus is our foundation and the head of the church.  We are part of His body.  We are not the head. This means we are to rely upon His Spirit for direction. This requires submission.  We submit to Christ for salvation and we submit to Him through the Word of God in our churches.  Christ Jesus has also established pastors and teachers to oversee the ministry of the local church.  The author of Hebrews in 13:17 writes, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

It has been my privilege to pastor the people of Flat Creek Baptist Church for almost twenty years.  It has also been my joy, even in the face of misunderstandings and false accusations.  Our God has grown His people through the relentless proclamation of God’s word.  The results are many growing, maturing spiritual folks.  How do I know?  I know because they submit to the word of God and minister to all, even those that take advantage of them.  They are committed to missions in ways that are visible and invisible.  They have hazarded their lives in the lives of others, even when others reject them.  They are growing in their sanctification to become like Christ….not all the time, for none of us do.  But they are genuine, loving, and not too hasty to judge for they look at people’s hearts, not appearances or numbers. They use their gifts to glorify our Lord, genuinely, not professionally. 

A few years ago John Piper wrote a book entitled “Brothers, We are Not Professionals”, reminding pastors that humility is the grace that displays our Savior’s love to the world.  I trust you know the difference between genuine humility and professional polish.  The house of the living God displays genuineness.

The church is also the family of God. Sometimes there are families by blood of kinship but always by blood of Christ. This is good, wholesome, and supernatural. We are part of a larger and more harmonious family of God. Are we not called brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord? He is our elder brother and believers should be in many instances, closer than blood brothers. Families are the foundation of human life and the fact that many are related by blood, both naturally and supernaturally, is a wonderful blessing of our Lord.

It is my prayer that you join to worship with us on the Lord’s Day, especially as we begin to learn together what is expected of born again believers.  After all, skeletons need flesh to live!

Eph. 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Pastor Carey

 

Perusal* – Spring 2014, A Rolling Stone…

 

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

Luke 24:1-8; “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them,[a] came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”8 And they remembered His words.”

Jesus is the living Word, only because He is alive! Having been crucified, confirmed dead by Roman soldiers keen about execution, His body was laid to rest before the high Sabbath night began. When the two Marys’ returned after the high, holy Sabbath, they were surprised to find the large stone affixed with a Roman seal lest it be disturbed and moved out of its rolling trough. The stone was rolled in a trough to cover the tomb’s entrance and prevent graves from being robbed.  Luke declares to Theophilus that two men in radiant apparel stood by, while Matthew records an earthquake, the second in three days, rocks Jerusalem and an angel rolls back the stone and sat upon it, causing the soldiers to become afraid and desert their post.  This fact speaks to Joseph of Arimathaea’s wealth and his love for our Lord.  Strange events during this Passover - the consequence of death by crucifixion would be followed by the unintended consequence of the resurrection. 

The purposes of the resurrection are many but it primarily displayed the satisfaction of God the Father with the obedience and passion of His Son.  Jesus was committed to the grave as sin’s hostage, for our debt was imputed to Him.  But as the earthquake and angels conspired to roll back the stone, Jesus was already gone from the tomb. He was ceaselessly active during the three days his body lay in the tomb as His spirit returned to His Father for a brief celebration before returning to declare victory to his disciples.  The rolled away stone is an eternal monument to the fact that the grave could not hold Him, or those that believe in this monumental event.

The rolling stone also reminds us that the resurrection is the foundational event for Christians.  It is the keystone of Christianity. The words of the great Baptist preacher Charles H. Spurgeon are appropriate; “Disprove the Resurrection of our Lord, and our holy faith would be a mere fable. There would be nothing for faith to rest upon if He who died upon the Cross did not also rise again from the tomb. Then “your faith is in vain,” said the Apostle, “you are yet in your sins,” while “they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” All the great Doctrines of our Divine religion fall asunder like the stones of an arch when the keystone is dislodged—in a common ruin they are all overthrown, for all our hope hinges upon that great fact. If Jesus rose, then is this Gospel what it professes to be; if He rose not from the dead, then is it all deceit and delusion, but, Brothers and Sisters, that Jesus rose from the dead is a fact better established than almost any other in history; the witnesses were many; they were men of all classes and conditions; none of them ever confessed himself mistaken or deceived; they were so persuaded that it was a fact that the most of them suffered death for bearing witness to it!”

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of scripture to you this Easter and that a heart of stone may be rolled away and a new heart of grace and gratitude be transplanted by the risen Lord Jesus Christ!

The Lord is risen indeed!

Sola Deo Gloria!

 

 

Pastor Carey


Perusal* – Winter 2013, Reflections on Shiny Things….

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

Matthew 2: 1-3, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him…”

The Holiday season is upon us again.  Soon folks will travel to malls, revitalized downtowns, big box stores or small Mom and Pop shops to traipse around, waiting for something shiny to catch their eye.  Or some will set in front of a computer screen “surfing the web” for the lowest price, latest gimmick, or next “got to have” item.  When our girls were children for a couple of years Cabbage Patch dolls were the rage.  Robby and I could not respond fast enough to purchase the real thing so we had a lady make us two for Stephanie and Megan.  (This may have had something to do with our refusal to stand in freezing weather, hours on end to make a consumer purchase of another faddish doll). They were just as excited over the handmade dolls as they were over the real thing.  In fact, we bought the real deal a few months later after the craze had subsided and for less mammon (that’s USD $).  They were grateful of course, but the newness, the shininess, had worn off. 

 Things that are shiny attract young and old alike.  We decorate our homes today from the top of chimney down to the basement.  Theme Christmas trees are popular - college mascots, Disney characters, NASCAR…the list is endless.  Each dressed just so, shiny and bright.  I can remember when mom and dad put up our Christmas tree, just a couple days before Christmas.  We enjoyed searching to find a suitable pine tree in the fields or woods about our home.  We all helped with the decoration and our eyes danced with the reflection of the multi-colored large lights that were wrapped about the tree. Santa arrived (somehow), and two or three days later, the tree was removed.  Christmas was a memory until next year.

 Today, the shiny decorations of Christmas can be seen before Halloween.  Even churches become captive to shiny as their theme this time of year.  Christmas extravaganzas, spectacular light and laser shows, dancing bears and sugar plum fairies are the norm. And yes, there must be a crèche, and don’t forget the Magi. They were attracted to a shiny light, were they not?

 Even the Gospel may appear shiny at first. But, because of sin, it loses its luster.  The Gospel, thankfully, doesn’t change and is forever fresh and new.  Its message is bound in the person of Christ Jesus.  Announced to our little world under the beam of a shiny star he journeyed eventually just five miles from his birthplace to be crucified for the sins of mankind.  No shiny stars then…in fact the sun refused to shine as His father forsook Him. 

 The earth was dark that day but the light of the glorious gospel of Christ shone brightly three days later when He rose again.  Men in shining garments appeared to announce Jesus’ resurrection.  The shining lights of Christmas give way to the shining, radiance and effulgence of the Savior and Lord of the world rising from the dead. 

 The Magi followed a star, or perhaps a constellation of stars supernaturally arranged in time to announce to these pagans that Someone very unique had arrived.  Christ’s birth wasn't shiny, none of today’s trappings, revealing parties, baby showers, or Facebook announcements.  He left Glory, condescending into poverty for our sake.  Angels, bathing the countryside with glorious light, announced the most profound message – peace could be had for all that welcomed Emmanuel.  They left, leaving Jesus in the care of two young earthly parents, relying on His father’s protection for the few years that lay before Him.  Nothing shiny here, move along, nothing to see here.   

Peter would write in 2 Peter 1:19, “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…” 

Has our Lord Jesus Christ arisen in your heart this year?  Has the light of the world, God’s magnificent Son, made His abode in your heart? Is the shiny just so much glitter in a world gone made with spotlights?  The star in the East that led wise men is the “…Root & Offspring of David, the bright and morning star!”

Merry Christmas and my prayer is that 2014 will be known in your life as the year of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ to God’s glory.

Sola Deo Gloria!

Pastor Carey

 

Perusal* – Fall 2013, Fan or Follower?

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

1 Corinthians 2:1-3, And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Another school year is upon us and Flat Creek would like to welcome all of the area’s college students back to Lynchburg.  We especially welcome the class of 2017 to the beautiful geography of the Blue Ridge mountain foothills.  There is much to see in central Virginia so take some time to enjoy the landscape! We also trust that you will find a place to worship each Lord’s Day and hope that you consider Flat Creek Baptist Church where the marvelous truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is affirmed in song, prayer, and proclamation.

Are you a fan or follower of the Savior?  I am an unapologetic fan of the Fab Four, the Beatles.  Same can be said for the Eagles, Eric Clapton, and yes, even, (on the country side), Dwight Yoakum.  I enjoy most all types of music, but especially the Blues.  Am a fan of the Oakland A’s and San Francisco 49ers and a Va Tech Hokie Nation guy.  I am fans of these groups and teams.  Not so much Jesus Christ.  He is my Lord and Savior (they can’t be separated by the way) and I am His disciple….a follower of God the Son.  He is my Master and Redeemer, not my homeboy. 

Are you a fan-boy of Kevin DeYoung, John Piper, David Platt, John MacArthur, Mark Dever, R. C. Sproul, Al Mohler, Ravi Zacharias, or others?  These are men of faith and powerful preachers, but only men.  We enjoy reading and learning from such men at Flat Creek.  We glean from great men of old, Polycarp, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, C. H. Spurgeon, and many others.  But they are all sinful men redeemed by the grace of our Savior. To a man they will denounce the promotion of their names and point all to Jesus Christ.  We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses which are followers and disciples of God the Son.  Disciples learn how to follow the Savior.  We become like Him from the constant and repeated exposure to His Word. One cannot doubt the Bible,” J.I. Packer warns, “without far-reaching loss, both of fullness of truth and of fullness of life. If therefore we have at heart spiritual renewal for society, for churches and for our own lives, we shall make much of the entire trustworthiness—that is, the inerrancy—of Holy Scripture as the inspired and liberating Word of God.”

The Bible liberates. “The truth shall make you free” is prefaced by, “you shall know the truth…”  Many disciples assume that the free nature of the Gospel taught by Jesus means I am free to do whatever I want, whenever I want, in any way I want. Of course this is simply our age old rebellion to the authority of the Trinity in our lives.  Non-conformity has become the new conformity, even among professing believers.  It begs the question, are you worshiping in a church that exposes you to expositional teaching and preaching?  Is every facet of the ministries of the church poised to point to the Son of God as revealed in the only reliable source of God’s truth?

We suffer from what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery”, implying that only the most current approaches to worship are relevant.  The good, rich, and time-tested “old time religion” is outdated simply because it is not new or fashionable.  Today preaching, which is God’s anointed means of delivering the Gospel, is thought to be too confrontational, too outdated, too in-tolerant.  Music, drama, dialog have been substituted for proclamation of the Gospel. When music elevates a better understanding of Jesus, I can worship.  If music is the primary means of spiritual interaction it detracts from His glory.  When drama is used as a primary mode of worship, it detracts from the Savior.  We should talk about God’s word, but dialog will never replace preaching. Anything, other than learning of Him and growing as a follower of Christ through His Word, detracts from Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Even an inordinate focus on the modes of worship will detract from our Savior.

Attending church for the sake of the music, drama, or dialog is akin to watching a football game for the sake of the refreshments.  It’s good, but not the reason we go to a game.  So let’s define preparation for Sunday worship.  Our prayers during the week should focus on the ministry of God’s word for the sake of the Gospel on the Lord’s Day.  Our preparation for giving on His day is for the purpose of supporting our local church and obedience to the Great Commission.  Giving is to be full of joy and expectation that our God can accomplish more with our collective resources for His glory in the Gospel.  Music is to supplement prayer and the Word, not entertain.  And preaching should elevate Jesus the Christ as He is exposed as Savior and we are exposed as sinners in dire need of God’s grace. 

The Greeks had a fascination with the spoken word, with athletics, and with the stage. Corinth so enjoyed being entertained that Paul was concerned that it would filter into and jeopardize the church.  Are we satisfied with entertainment? As a follower and not a fan we should ask a question; “Could I worship the Lord Jesus Christ in a church that has no music and focuses only upon the melody of God’s word as it is taught and preached?” If we answer “yes” to that question, then music, drama, skits, and dialog will find its proper place in our worship of the Savior.

Our sin desires to displace the Savior’s grace.  Our flesh desires to be entertained.  God is seeking to be worshiped by His accepted means - preaching and the administration of the ordinances of baptism and Lord’s Supper. As a follower of Jesus or perhaps seeking to become a disciple of Jesus join with us this Lord’s Day and jettison the fleshly desire for entertainment. Come and worship with the Flat Creek family.  Our music is selected to genuinely foster worship, a blend of good, theologically sound contemporary songs that complement age old hymns - all for the purpose of focusing on Jesus Christ and Him crucified as proclaimed in the Gospel.  

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of scripture to you and that you might confess Jesus as Lord and Savior and enjoy the freedom He brings in obedience to Him.

Are you a fan or follower?   

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

 

Perusal* – Spring 2013, Empty Faith & Hope… 

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)  

1 Corinthians 15: 12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian church to correct aberrant resurrection theology.  Some of them were thinking like the Sadducees of old, denying the resurrection as the only hope for eternal life.  They made a crucial mistake – assuming there is the Christian faith without the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead.

The denial of the resurrection eliminates the necessity of preaching, reveals the shallowness of the unfaithful, contributes to an elusive hope, leaves us in our desperate sinful condition, and makes liars of Christians.  Doesn’t sound like Christianity, does it?  If Jesus did not rise from a borrowed tomb then His submission and obedience were hypocritical no matter how well intentioned he was.  Christian disciples have been duped for 2000 years to believe a lie and Jesus was a dope for believing the prophecy in Psalm 16, “I will not suffer my holy One to see corruption…” It leaves people of faith cold and removes trustworthiness from the character traits of believers.  Either the Christ was gloriously raised from the dead or life is unquestionably meaningless.  A moral eclipse soon follows - the suffering and shame of Calvary were immoral and if immoral then sin cannot be forgiven.  The church is a farce and the Gospel it claims to represent is a fable.   

Believers are to think and look beyond a culture that is reticent about the veracity of the Savior’s resurrection.  His resurrection was attested to by numerous eye witnesses and confirmed to the disciples by a woman, Mary Magdalene, the first to see Him Sunday morning.  If the disciples were constructing a story why would they record Mary as witness to the raised Jesus of Nazareth?  Why not fabricate an air tight alibi secure in the number of men that saw Him.  Because the Gospels were telling two truths – 1) a majority of men fabricated lies during the Lord Jesus’ trials, and condemned Him to death, and 2) the last laugh, so to speak, was three days later.  The consequence of death by crucifixion would be followed by the unintended consequence of the resurrection. 

The purposes of the resurrection are many but it primarily displayed the satisfaction of God the Father with the obedience and passion of His Son.  The holiness of God condemns sin and demands punishment, even death, for the perpetrators. God’s promise of peace on earth and goodwill to men came at a princely price - the Prince of Peace died and shed His blood to forgive sin. This Jesus did willingly, though perhaps at times He seemed reluctant to drink the cup of wrath meant for sinners like you and I.  Bearing the shame and disgrace reserved for a true criminal He bore the brunt of punishment reserved for underserving sinners. Grace is truly amazing, overwhelmingly amazing, and thankfully amazing.  Little wonder He was raised back to life promising the very same for as many as receive Him by acknowledging our sinfulness, repenting of our rebellion, and confessing faith in His death, burial, and resurrection.

The Trinity’s holiness separates sinners from the divine order.  But holiness must be accorded to sinners in order to see God for only God can satisfy Himself.  Never was this truer than His act of sacrificial love and grace in the person of Jesus Christ, who knew no sin and became sin for us. The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds believers in the 1st and in the 21st centuries that God is for peace. 

Shalom is granted to those that believe in the Gospel of a Person, Jesus Christ.  The truth of the Incarnation gives to us a man that is the “great Shepherd of the sheep”, that died that we might be forgiven and was resurrected that we might become holy like Him.

Hebrews 13: 20 “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Thankfully, the resurrection is the most attested event in all of ancient history and knowledge of Jesus as Savior does accord peace to sinners.  Luke would write in Acts 4,

Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead...However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.”

It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will reveal the truth of scripture to you this Easter and that you might confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.The Lord is risen indeed!

 

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

Perusal* – Winter 2012, Reflections on the Incarnation…

 

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

 

2 Corinthians 8: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

It is Christmas again…a most wonderful time of the year!  Flat Creek completed our 6th annual “Living Nativity” this past weekend, Dec. 8-9.  Our Lord blessed with beautiful weather and two nights of almost bumper to bumper traffic.  Our count indicated 130 cars, more than 350 people, and the Gideon’s delivered more than 200 New Testaments.  Many thanks to everyone that worked to make the weekend possible, especially our Baptist Young Women.  Flat Creek’s Living Nativity is the brainchild of one young lady in particular, Afton Fisher and each year Afton adds new twists to make the Nativity accurately represent the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We have posted photos on the social scourge of the day – excuse me, the social craze of the day; Facebook @ http://www.facebook.com/FCBVA#!/FCBVA/photos

 

Christmas is a time when people should reflect and be thankful for the great mystery of God with us, the Incarnation of the Son of God.  Jesus the Christ was supernaturally conceived of God’s Spirit to become a man, to walk among men, to teach men about true worship of His Father, to die as a man, rising to conquer death.  Consistent with the Trinity’s eschatology each seemingly minor prophecy was brought to pass beginning with the visit of Gabriel to Mary and ending on a mountain outside of Jerusalem as disciples watched Him ascend to the Father he loved so very much.  Jesus Christ, a man full of grace and truth, humbled Himself and became obedient to the death of crucifixion.

 

Our country has heard much this year in the name of fairness. The wealthy should be more patriotic with their financial blessings and pay additional taxes.  It seems in America today patriotism is compelled.  I’m not sure of the reasoning but do know human nature.  The rich because of sin attempt to squelch the poor and the poor envy the rich because of sin, all the while attempting to confiscate their wealth.  What is needed is grace and humility.  What is needed is Immanuel.

 

Grace defines our God!  My wife was talking with a dear lady this year about the lady’s trials and depression.  Robby mentioned that God’s grace is sufficient for us, especially our salvation.  The lady countered that grace was not enough, there is something needed from us.  If so, what might that be?

 

The nature of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is that it is unearned.  Not only is it unearned, it is undeserved.  And it is extravagant.  What may I bring to my Lord that improves on His grace?  Could I possibly impress upon Him my sincerity, when much of the time I am not sincere? Could it be my obedience all the while knowing that my sin nature tempts me to rebellion and I easily fall into sin?  Could it be my goodness or my justice?  No, I am like rich and poor, a sinner in dire straits and in need of a Savior’s grace.

 

The extravagant nature of the grace of our Lord Jesus is because of God’s abundance.  God’s wealth is undefined.  Paul attempts to define the undefinable by declaring that Christ condescended into poverty for our sakes.  There are stories of wealthy people losing all in the stock market or some other nefarious misadventure.  But none compares with the reversal of fortune God the Son chose.  He was not compelled or forced or threatened.  The only completely free Person in the Universe decided to humble Himself into poverty, and bear my sin’s curse, satisfying the righteous demands of His Father and bringing me into their family!  What wealth is this!

 

Our Lord told Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “…My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”   Grace defines the character of God and is altogether sufficient for our most pressing need - the forgiveness of our sins.  Remember, we were sinners before we ever sinned.  God’s sufficient grace would not be possible without the Incarnation of God the Son.  We would be lost in sins forever.  This Christmas, thank Him for the sufficiency and efficiency of His grace incarnate in Christ Jesus that saves a wretched man in poverty to spiritual riches in the His heaven.

Merry Christmas and my prayer is that 2013 will be the best year for growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ to God’s glory.

 

Sola Deo Gloria!  Pastor Carey

 

 

 


 

Perusal* – Autumn 2012, Reflections on Doors…

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

 

 

Revelation 3:8, I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.


 

John the exiled apostle wrote the words above from Patmos to the churches of Asia Minor, specifically to Laodicea.  He echoed a passage from Deuteronomy 30:1-3;

 …the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, … call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, 3 that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you…”

Flat Creek has been studying the Lord’s Prayer for several weeks, having recently focused upon Jesus’ teaching about “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  In both Deuteronomy and Revelation our Lord reminds Israel and a church that He has set before each of them opportunities that can only be had if proper and decisive choices are made.  His desire is for his children to be responsible, obey His revealed will and rejoice in His blessings!

 

At the time of this writing our country is about 50 days from electing the leader of the free world and the most powerful person on the planet.  It is truly a sobering thought and one I pray that each of you will prayerfully consider long before entering the voting booth.  Christians have a responsibility to be both salt and light to a world decaying and in darkness from a lack of Gospel truth.  An open door is before us…may we walk through it wisely.

 

I am very thankful and humbled to be an American.  Our country is not perfect, has many warts, and has committed sins too numerous to mention.  But it is comprised of a vast wealth of enterprising, hardworking people - people that share biblical views whether they realize it or not.   These views are the results of hundreds of year’s exposure to Judeo-Christian ethics that are almost subliminal, e.g. the respect for individual’s rights with parallel responsibilities, the understanding that heterosexual marriage is the foundational structure of society, the gift of the rule of law, and so many others.  Yes, some disagree with these ethics, but most subscribe to them. America’s heritage is steeped in the morality of Scripture and the world has benefited from the United States perhaps more than any other country in history. 

One of my greatest fears is that our children and grandchildren will not be recipients of our Lord’s continued blessing upon our great nation.  America has been blessed because many of her citizens have honored and hallowed God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  What has been set before us in His word has resonated around the globe due to the faithfulness of many to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and countless hundreds of thousands have entered into the kingdom of God. His will has been and is being done on earth.

A door is before us in November.  The apostle Paul mentioned a door in 1 Corinthians 16:9, “…a great and effective door has been opened to me and there are many adversaries.”  I challenge you to not only listen to what is being said, but also to watch what is being done.  Talk is cheap and gifted orators easily persuade the gullible.  As believers we should vote as led by our consciences which are to be bathed by the Holy Spirit’s word of God and in the glory of our Savior.  The result is goodwill to men.  The Gospel is the power of God to salvation for many, but it is an obstacle to others that do “not like to retain God in their knowledge.”  Choose the open door set before you and keep His word!

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

 

 

 

 


 

 

Perusal* – Summer 2012, “Bear one another’s burdens…”

 

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)

 

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

 

Huey Lewis wrote a song back in the 1980’s with these lyrics:

 

“The power of love is a curious thing

Make a one man weep,

Make another man sing.”

 

And John Lennon wrote “All you need is love…” over 40 years ago. I like these songs…great lyrics, melody, and subtle messages. Love is an oft spoken word with misunderstood expectations.  Today’s focus on “love” has become an idol in the western world.  Love has evolved from providing for ones in a manner that glorifies our heavenly Father to acceptance of lifestyles that are sinful and debauched.  Further, the church, the bride of our Savior, has suffered the desertion of many that claim they have been born again and claim they love the Lord. An understanding of love within the church is desperately needed.

 

The church has explicit organizational responsibilities given to it by Jesus.  They are primarily; 1) to preach the Gospel, 2) to protect the Gospel, 3) to equip the professors of the Gospel and exclude false professors, and 4) to prepare genuine professors for the bride groom’s return. Many other responsibilities are couched in these four, e.g. missions and evangelism, support of believers that have needs that their families cannot fulfill, and fellowship within a family of redeemed sinners.  These directives are given to the church in love and they are to be carried out in love.  Notice the equipping is to occur in the local church.  Notice the bearing of each other’s burdens fulfills the law of Christ in the church.  Notice the majority of the New Testament is written to local churches.  Why then is the power of love for the local church missing?

 

“Christians cannot display the life of this final society, this end-time gathering, this heavenly city, this Christ, all by themselves”, states Jonathan Leeman in his book “The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love”. We need other believers!  Today many so-called believers in the saving work of Jesus Christ consider local church membership as a relic from the past.  We are consumers and picky consumers at that.  Our thoughts about church are strategic – we are part of the larger “universal” or catholic church.  Our submission to God’s authority and the four principles our Savior left to his body on earth is sporadic and the application of these four tactics is misapplied even when it is believed.  We easily pull out from under the umbrella of the authority of the local church.  When we do, the deluges of life’s struggles drown us because we have removed ourselves from our Lord’s ordained means of growth and service – the local church!

 

Can we bear each other’s burdens and do we examine our spiritual works within the doors of a local church?  And how would we obey these commands if not within the local church? Jesus gifted the church with His authority on earth.  We are members of his body and are to submit to his Lordship and to the gifted authority of elders in the local church.  I am not to judge another without humility and I cannot challenge their individual commitment.  But the church can.  This is the power of God’s love!  Today many don’t believe that authority belongs to the church; it belongs to the consumer Christian, asserting their presence with the power of the pocketbook.  We question the Lordship of Christ and do not submit to Him when it is preached. And we search for churches that cater to our consumerist nature.  The preacher must be a comedian and music must be accompanied by guitar riffs that produce “air guitar” wannabes. Not surprisingly, churches are shallow; Christians are weak and look like the world. 

 

Beloved, we are to bear with one another – the church is comprised of sinners.  Even when I am alone I am with a sinner.  It is in the church that I am to love sinners with all our baggage - the backbiters, the hypocrites, those devoid of doctrinal stability and they are to love me.  I have the same sins!  And I have the very same Savior!  I chose the church in which I serve – but the members I did not choose.  I have grown in God’s grace to love them, to participate in defining Jesus’ love to a lost and dying world.  Bearing each other’s burdens characterizes the church’s love until our beloved Redeemer returns and demonstrates to the world the power of love! 

 

 

Sola Deo Gloria, Pastor Carey

 

 


 

Perusal* – Spring 2012, Reflections on Dependence… 

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail) 

2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who know no sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” 

A few days ago I returned from a very long journey to South Africa.  The travel took better than 24 hours on jet planes and two donkeys to the hotel (that’s a prevarication, not true….but it did take a very long time to arrive at the destination)!  Today’s modern modes of travel are taken for granted.  It requires the harmony of complex mechanisms – aircraft with mechanics and electronics in concert with software that digitally moves within the framework of computers.  But all of the marvels of technology are useless without a human crew.  And we depend upon those skilled with the craft of understanding the piloting of airplanes to transport us from point A to point B.  I am grateful for these men and women that perform their duties behind the scenes without promotion.  Thousands every year depend upon their dedication for most of us cannot fly the plane independently. 

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ did not occur until he suffered and died an ignominious death on the Cross. He had repeatedly reminded his disciples of his date with crucifixion.  They were ignorant of his prophecy until they deserted him and watched his murder from afar.  We too have deserted him.  “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  Isaiah wrote these beautiful, haunting words almost 3000 years ago.  They are as true today as then.   

We are dependent individuals that pride ourselves on a false image of independence.  Left to do our own thing we will certainly chose to desert the Savior that loves us and demands repentance and complete submission.  The resurrection made this ever so clear – God crowned His Son with the spirit of holiness because He was made sin for us.  This crown was earned by obedience and due to Him because of his heritage.  He alone wears both crowns – the stephanos, or earned crown and the diadem, given because he is God’s Son.

Our insatiable cry for rights and freedoms will, if not humbled by the Holy Spirit, doom us and eventually damn us.  God did create us as free moral agents but scripture reminds us often that we have gone astray. We have all sought our own way and are far from God.  Little wonder there is so much hurt in this world, often of our own making.   

God demands righteousness in us and thankfully the Lord Jesus provides this righteousness. We are dependent on His work, His will, His worship to become the righteousness of God.  Jesus gave himself for our sakes.  He did this unreservedly in love, pitying sinners in mercy and crowning them with the marvel of grace.  Yes, we are dependent and should declare this dependence upon the person of the Redeemer, resurrected to become our Mediator! 

Hallelujah, what a Savior! 

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

Perusal* – Winter 2011, Reflections on Mercy… 

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail) 

Luke 1:76-79 “ And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
      For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
      To give knowledge of salvation to His people
      By the remission of their sins,
      Through the tender mercy of our God,
      With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
      To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
      To guide our feet into the way of peace.” 
 

Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, prophesied these words after his son’s circumcision, or dedication to the Lord.  They remind us that the world into which the Messiah was birthed was a cold, dark, and desperate place.  It was also the world of the Baptist.  He had little choice in his destiny, but this did not seem to bother him.  He is not heard from again until the baptism of our Savior, Jesus Christ. This too, did not seem to bother him.  He would declare in John’s gospel, “He must increase and I decrease.”  Oh for Christians today that are as humble as John the Baptist! 

John understood mercy.  Mercy is the kindness and goodness of the triune God to pitiful and desperate people.  We are pitied by God.  His mercy endures because the sin of unrepentant persons endures.  Jesus Christ is the mercy of God in human form.  It is hard to believe that a mere babe in the manger reflected the kindness of God.  But He did and does still. 

God’s mercy was not exhibited when the angels sinned.  Lucifer did not know God’s mercy and surely Satan will never experience God’s pity.  We alone of the creation are beholders of and  partakers of His mercy!  Is this not cause for rejoicing - is this not cause for praise – is this not cause for humility? 

The Lord stooped to lie in an animal trough, to be wrapped in swaddling clothes, to have no permanent place of shelter.  Although a carpenter he built himself no place of rest.  He was intent on declaring His Father’s mercy to a world mired in the bleak mid-winter of our discontent.   He had no urgent demand to demonstrate mercy.  He was under no time constraint; no sinner ever deserved the slightest notion of redemption.  His mercy is His to dispense and His to withhold.  But, nonetheless God commended His love to us while we were yet in our sins.   

This is what it means to be God.  Absolute and utter freedom to make whatever choice glorifies Him most.  And this He does without sin! I am humbled when I reflect upon my Father’s mercy.  I am delighted when I revel in His grace.  And I am comforted to know His love – a love that surpasses all human expectations! 

Mercy is a reflection of humility.  They are both graces given by the Holy Spirit to regenerate persons born again by the Spirit of God.  As believers we are to express both humility and mercy to all, for this is what our Lord expects and commands.  We cannot demonstrate the extent of God’s mercy, but we can demonstrate its intent.  Without mercy we all would surely be consumed.  Since our God has demonstrated his love, mercy, and grace to the world in Jesus the Christ, his children are to follow his lead.

Merry Christmas and my prayer is that 2012 will be the best year for growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ to God’s glory. 

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

Perusal* – Autumn 2011, Reflections on Landmarks… 

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail) 

Jeremiah 31: 21 “ Set up signposts, Make landmarks;
      Set your heart toward the highway, The way in which you went.
      Turn back, O virgin of Israel, Turn back to these your cities. 
 

Flat Creek has enjoyed a summer of weddings, four to be exact.  And each one has been beautiful, poignant, and different in their style and formality.  The couples selected meaningful reminders of their lives to that particular moment when they were united as husband and wife.  The music and songs were selected, scripture was carefully and solemnly read, the vows were tailored especially for each young couple….the ceremonies reflected their love for each other and their love for their Lord, Jesus Christ. 

What occurred on each of their special days will be remembered for years.  The moments were photographed and videotaped and then posted to the latest social network craze of the day - Facebook.  They have established landmarks in their young lives.  Events they can return to year after year to reflect on commitments made before hundreds of people that they will be faithful to each other and to Christ Jesus as long as they live. 

We think of landmarks as stationary things along the sides of country roads or interstates that lend themselves to finding a specific address, place of business, church, school, or home.  With the advent of GPS systems I suspect they are not used as frequently as years ago.  But some people still use them.  In fact this week I provided a lady with directions to Flat Creek that not only included road numbers but also a few landmarks to easily locate the church. Hope she found them informational.

Our Lord is gracious in providing spiritual landmarks for our guidance.  The passage above is taken from Jeremiah’s prophecy to Judah.  The specific chapter, 31, mentions landmarks that are made for the purpose of correcting their bent to sinning.   They are mentioned together with signposts and highways, normal methods of traveling from one point to another.

Jeremiah is preaching to his kindred about repentance, turning back or turning around, changing direction. The church needs a change in direction.  We need to establish the landmark of God’s word as it promotes His Son Jesus Christ as the only remedy for the world’s sin and sinners.  We need to be reminded of the signposts that warn us of impending danger, the washed out road ahead or the sharp curve that we happen upon too quickly.  We should pay attention to the highways of sin’s attraction that eventually will rob us of our joy in the Savior. 

Flat Creek is celebrating 180 years of continuous service in the Lynchburg area.  There have been and continue to be landmarks from the church’s past.  Outside Flat Creek’s Educational building are two stone “stiles”.  These were used decades ago when people attending church rode horses to the services.  They are steps made from granite that permitted people to mount and dismount their horses. They are landmarks from an earlier time, perhaps a simpler time.  And they remind us that men, women, boys and girls served our Lord Jesus Christ long before we knew of Him. They were made many years ago, were used hundreds of times, and now remain as reminders of Flat Creek’s legacy.  If the Lord Jesus tarries His Coming the stiles will continue to be reminders of this legacy to believers that follow us long after we are gone. 

In the same chapter 31 of Jeremiah the Lord tells His prophet that He will make a new covenant with His chosen people.   

33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” 

As God’s people let us not forget the landmarks He has left to remind us of His great mercy, his unmerited grace, and His everlasting love. 

Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey  

 

Perusal* – Summer 2011, Rest, Relaxation…Reformation

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail) 

Matthew 26: 35 & 56b: Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!" And all the disciples said the same.  Then all the disciples left him and fled.” ESV 

Flat Creek is blessed this summer to celebrate the glorious gift of the covenant of marriage not once, but four times.  As this perusal is being written two wonderful weddings are “in the books” and our congratulations to Geoff and Rachel Sanders on their most recent wedding! They have begun a brand new life together in our Lord Jesus Christ, to share the wealth of His grace and love and to enjoy each other. Our prayer is that the very same God that gave away the first bride, Eve, will grow them as believers in His Holy Spirit. 

Summer is here – in fact, the weather prediction is for temperatures close to 100o F for the next few days.  Robby and I and two other couples recently returned from traveling to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks in Wyoming.  These areas experienced record snow falls this winter past, over 700” in some places.  Snow was still glued to the mountain passes up to 30’ in height.  The weather during the day was typically western, rain and thunder squalls with clearing and temperatures warming from the thirties to the sixties. Quite a relief from the heat indexes of 100+.  It was difficult for us to imagine that the beauty of creation and the senses to enjoy such beauty was brought about by random acts of natural selection.  The Bible informs those that will listen that God “…gives us richly all things to enjoy!” 1 Timothy 6:17.  And what glory is seen in the works of His fingers! 

No matter what process or agency our Lord used to bring about the creation, as He spoke the worlds responded ex nihilo  - out of nothing.  Only our God does this.  Out of nothing He brought forth material things in physical form including humanity.  And provided the capacity to respond to what He provided.  What a God!  But our response is more often than not muted and oblivious to His compassionate mercy because of our criminal sin.  Such was the case of the twelve chosen to witness the kingdom of God in the glory of the Gospel.  They were muted and callous as Jesus told of his impending death.  As men they responded much the same as men of all time have responded.  “We will not deny you; we will follow you to the cross and die if necessary.”  Oblivious to the fact that the work of God is done by God alone they enthusiastically and with one voice tried to encourage their Lord, turning their rally hats around and resolutely turning their faces into the chilling winds of sure death. 

Courage is not the ability to boldly make claims of bravado.  Courage is the fortitude to be thrust into great trials and boldly persevere not knowing the outcome.  This is even more compelling when we think that Jesus Christ was well aware of the trials before Him.   When faced with the real possibility of death, especially that of crucifixion, the disciples to a man deserted Him.  John did return with His mother, but not before skulking away from the clamoring crowd.  What our Lord did in the atonement He did alone.  Alone and separated from His Father.  Alone and deserted by His closest friends.  God ventures into the valley of the shadow of death alone so that His bride the church will never be left alone!  “I will never leave you or forsake you,” Jesus promised. 

Summer is a time when some decide to leave others alone to worship in God’s house.  These boldly declare that they “work so hard…” they require vacation.  Yes, we need vacation.  But 12-13 weeks of leaving God’s people to themselves is more than vacation.  It is desertion.   

Let us as believers celebrate earthly marriages as illustrations of God’s love in Christ Jesus for his church.  Let us also as believers support each other during the vacation months – rest, relaxation, recuperation…and reformation in the Lord’s house.   

Sola Deo Gloria, Pastor Carey  

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 


 

Perusal* – Spring 2011, “While the earth remains…”

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail) 

Genesis 8:22, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." 

One week ago (at the time of this writing) our weather was cold, less than 40o F.  This weekend temperatures have approached record warmth levels.  Perhaps there is something to the climate change hysteria.  Or, perhaps the earth is engaged in cyclic weather patterns that fluctuate annually, much like my weight! The Creator controls the phenomenon by the mere edges of His ways Job declared more than 3500 years ago.  He does this as a reflection of His glory and is dispensed to mankind to search it out, Proverbs 25:2. Our voices should praise Him in unison while enjoying the on set of Spring. 

Flat Creek Baptist Church celebrates its 180th anniversary during 2011.  It has been my great privilege to pastor Flat Creek for almost sixteen years.  Our Lord has caused me to grow in His grace and knowledge over these years and I have been humbled by the tenure.  The willingness of God’s people to work together for the purpose of fulfilling the great Commission has humbled me.  Sharing in the suffering of godly saints has humbled me.  Rejoicing in their triumphs has humbled me.  Disciplining fellow believers has humbled me.  Most of all, learning of the grace of my Savior, Jesus Christ, has led to an increasingly humility and amazement that the triune God would stoop to love a wretched sinner as I. 

Five years ago Flat Creek was blessed to celebrate our 175th anniversary.  This year we are planning for a great day of Jubilee on October 16, 2011.  Dr. Andreas Kostenberger, author of more than twenty books and professor of New Testament Theology and Director of PhD studies at Southeastern Baptist Seminary will be our plenary speaker.  He also is the key contributor of www. Biblicalfoundations.org website and has traveled extensively having spoken last year in Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, England.  Dr. Kostenberger is noted for his unerring love of the truth of God’s word and his dedication to the restoration of godly marriages in our churches now furthered by the second edition of his work God, Marriage, and Family.   

We are blessed to have this opportunity to listen to Dr. Kostenberger as he declares the One with whom we all have to do, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He has debated Dr. Bart Ehrman of the University of North Carolina about the foundations of Christianity and has written a book in defense of the orthodox understanding of our faith, ironically titled The Heresy of Orthodoxy. The simplicity of the Gospel is under attack today perhaps as never before and Dr. Kostenberger is on the front line battling the good news of God’s character in Jesus Christ. 

Over the next few weeks more will be written concerning our 180th celebration.  Make your plans to join with the saints of Flat Creek committed to the continuing declaration that Jesus died for sinners of whom I am chief!  Remember we are to proclaim the Gospel while the earth remains.  

Sola Deo Gloria, Pastor Carey  

 

 

Perusal* – Winter 2010, In the bleak mid-winter….

(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail) 

Hebrews 12:1-2, Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 

How soon 2010 has passed, quicker and more rapidly than the year before.  The Holiday (or holy day) season is upon us with family, friends, and faith.  Faith placed in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the monogenes of God, begotten from the understanding of His holy Self, and subsisting in that idea.  I wish these were my original thoughts, but I don’t think that deeply.  These are the thoughts of Jonathan Edwards written 300 years ago as he reflected upon the beauty of the Trinity.  He continues, “The Father is the deity subsisting in the prime, unoriginated and most absolute manner, or the deity in direct existence.  The Holy Ghost is the deity subsisting in act, or the divine essence flowing out and breathed forth in God’s infinite love to and delight in Himself.”  Weighty thoughts.  Thoughts to ponder “in the bleak mid winter.” 

This Christmas season, how do you think of God?  Is He one who’s character is so full that Jesus Christ results – another Person standing forth, but also One in divine essence?  Are you aware that the Father and Son have such eternal love and joy in each other’s excellence that yet another Person stands forth – the Holy Spirit, distinct and yet One in both the Father and the Son?   

Jesus is the unspeakable gift from the union of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This is good news indeed!  Much has been written about the timing of our Savior’s birth – was it in winter or early spring?  The medieval Christian church blended the pagan feast of Saturnalia and all its imagery with the Christ Mass to facilitate faith in Jesus Christ.  Mankind tends to do that in order to make the Gospel more palatable, easily swallowed or glossed over.  Repentance of sin has never been very popular and never shall.  But the good news of God’s character in Jesus Christ does bring true peace on earth to those willing to repent and believe. 

God loves us and demonstrated His love by appearing in His Son, the express image of God’s Person.  The Creator communicated to us as Redeemer so that the crown of His creation might receive in Jesus Christ, His glory. Born of a virgin, the incarnate Son of God communicated to our hearts through his preaching and teaching.  He made known to us the Father and glorified the Father by his obedience. In turn the Father reveals the Son as the “glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”, 2 Corinthians 4:6.       

These grand truths should cause us to pause and ponder, to peruse the unimaginable love, mercy, and grace of the God of the living Word.  As Jesus told Peter, “Flesh and blood did not reveal my true identity to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” What thoughts for souls to reflect upon in this bleak mid-winter. 

Sola Deo Gloria, Pastor Carey


 
 Perusal* – Autumn 2010, Understanding Biblical Discipline 
(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)  

1 Timothy 5:17, Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.  

18 For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.  

19 Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.  
20 Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.  

One of the subjects often avoided in churches is the grace of church discipline.  The word “grace” is used because it is steeped in New Testament scripture and was written for our admonition.  Church discipline is to be used sparingly and not before prayerful and careful examination of all the accumulated facts.  But it is to be used when necessary to remove the unrepentant sinner in order that God’s name be not blasphemed and the purity of the church not further soiled. 

“Pastor, why subject the church to such embarrassment?  The world already thinks were crazy and removal of a church member just adds to their argument.”  Really?  Agreed that the world thinks most evangelicals are crazy, in fact they think we are similar to Islamic extremists.  But since when did the world gain such sway over the church that it can demand we ignore clear direction in God’s word?  Our Lord Jesus was very clear that the world hated him and will hate us because we are His disciples.   

This does not mean that we are to go out of our way to preach hatred or foster an arrogant self-righteous attitude.  But it also doesn‘t mean that a body of born again believers is immune to sin. Sometimes the sin is pervasive.  Church discipline is to be exercised every time the church meets for worship and is to be used to instruct its members to pursue faith and holiness. Preaching, teaching, prayer, corporate worship, accountability relationships, and godly oversight by pastors, deacons and elders are all forms of discipline.

In a biblical sense, church discipline is the act of correcting sin in the life of the body, including the possible final step of excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin (see Matt. 18:15-20, 1 Cor. 5:1-13).

The former illustration is referred to as formative discipline and is what is meant in the NT by sanctification.  It is the positive element of God’s word being enabled by the Holy Spirit to teach, convict, convince, and comfort His children.  Every time our Lord taught He used formative discipline.  His disciples must have tired of it, but He taught them none the less. An act of formative discipline is an act of love! 

The latter type of discipline is the one most people fear and misunderstand.  It is corrective discipline and interestingly, is an act of love as well.  As previously stated it is to be engaged only when necessary but when necessary it is not to be avoided.  It is an act of love because first of all we are to love our Lord above unrepentant brethren.  Secondly, it is an act of love because we are to love the church as the bride of Christ which is a reflection of His purity and holiness.  And thirdly, it is an act of love because it is intended to bring a true sinning believer to repentance and restoration. 

Acts of biblical love are rare today.  We may refer to an act of discipline as “tough love” but scriptural discipline is not tough, it is prescriptive.  Its purpose is restoration, a temporary removal of a sinning saint in order that they be convicted, repent, and resolve not to sin again. 

There are a number of reasons why church discipline is important. It is important because it calls a professing believer out of sin.  Sometimes these people are NOT saved, and the Holy Spirit must be allowed to pursue them as the holy hound of heaven to bring them to repent and be saved.  We pander to universalism when our thoughts are that ALL church members are born again.  Some are not regardless of how loudly they profess the Lord Christ.  It is therefore important to preach the truth of the Gospel in season and out to separate the wheat and chaff.  

It is important because it warns true believers of the consequences of sin.  The scripture above solemnly warns the church that a sinning elder is to be called out publically so that “the rest may stand in fear.”  Let’s face it – most of today’s believers are arrogant and think they are above sin.  The Puritans taught church members should continuously investigate their life in light of God’s word and their profession of faith.  Paul wrote that we are “to examine ourselves and see whether we are in the faith.”  Church discipline serves to sober us into earnest examination of our souls. 

Discipline also proves to purify the church as a whole.  Paul wrote, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  Removing a sinning member cleanses those offended and defends the glorious honor of our Lord.   

Church discipline can be a powerful evangelistic tool.  People are longing for conviction and churches which practice purity and holiness will attract the curiosity of non-believers as they seek to understand why such action must be taken. Yes, we may be thought crazy, but much in the Christian life is outside the pale.  Believers are saved by faith alone and are to live by faith alone no matter how repulsive the act of faith may appear to the fallen world. Let’s not underestimate the work of the Holy Spirit in honoring His word. 

Most importantly, church discipline promotes the glory of God.  Our Lord commands and expects conspicuously holy saints which is a reflection of His holiness in us and serves to teach the world that God loves because He is holy.  God’s gracious character is seen for what it is - a display of His merciful attributes to lost sinners that serve to bring Him glory. 

So biblically, church discipline is another part of discipleship.  You will notice that the words are related.  Disciples do not become disciples without discipline.  Sometimes the discipline requires the excommunication of an offender in order to convict others that have taken their faith for granted.  Ultimately removal of an unrepentant church member is for their good.  As the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with His word the offender can be brought to forgiveness and restoration to God’s glory. 

It is my prayer that formative discipline wills serve to offset corrective discipline in each of your lives.
Sola Deo Gloria! Pastor Carey

 
Summer 2010, Understanding Church Membership 
(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail) 

Ephesians 5:25-27
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.  

Kevin DeYoung's and Ted Kluck's book “Why We love the Church – In Praise of institutions and Organized Religion” is an interesting read.  It seems that many Christians today are taking a long, hard look at the community of the local church.  I applaud their incentive.  The church, as John Calvin stated, is to be “constantly reforming”.  The local church is a hospital for sinners and anyplace that houses sinners needs reforming.

Two thousand years of church history should have taught believers that the local church is imperfect.  In fact because there has been 2,000 years of history we have the privilege of hindsight and the challenge of foresight. But is the “traditional” church to be jettisoned on the altar of pragmatism and convenience?  And is the local church passe' – has it served its purpose and now Christians are to move on to some new, enlightened path of house churches, lessons in lieu of preaching, and social justice in the place of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
 

The apostle Paul wrote a great portion of the New Testament and each of his epistles were written to local churches.  Granted many did meet in homes, for the Christian faith was new and in need of meeting places due to a lack of monetary resources. But we do know that by the close of the first century, churches were being housed in buildings separate from houses.  Also, some early believers did have very large homes with courtyards that could be used for assemblies.  To assume that today the ideal church is to remain confined to a house is a misunderstanding of New Testament ecclesiology.
 

The key element is not where one meets; the key element is that a believer does meet with other believers on the Lord's Day for preaching of the Word, fellowship, giving, and corporate worship.  The early church focused on worship through the preaching of the Word of God.  Teaching is important and all sermons should teach, but the need in Christians and unbeliever's lives is for the truth of God in Jesus Christ to be proclaimed with authority.  That generally does not happen with teaching alone. 
 

One of the gripes the post-modern Christian has with the institutional church is membership.  Is it necessary to “join” a church?  Disillusionment with the church is not new, neither is the fear of uniting with a body of believers that changes from year to year.  Churches have a habit of being slow to learn, if only because human beings have the same habit.  As DeYoung says in his book, “I wonder if they (church-leavers) will be happy in five years with their new form of church. I wonder if they will escape their own cynicism and anger.  Most of all I worry that in leaving the church they are leaving the faith of the church and the Christ of two thousand years of church history.”
  

In order to understand the church it is necessary to define what the New Testament taught about churches.  Historically, a church has been defined as a body of believers that meet each week, preferably on the Lord's day, to 1) listen to the preaching of God's word and respond, 2) partake in the ordinances of our faith – baptism by immersion for the new, born again believer and participation in the Lord's Supper for maturing believers, and 3) being submissive to the discipline administered by the church body. There are many good parachurch Christian organizations that strengthen and aid the church but are not churches – Campus Crusade for Christ, Gideons, and various missions endeavors.  They may administer one or two of the three key elements of a church, but are not involved in all three, especially church discipline.
 

Why is church membership important? Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus about doctrine and the application of doctrine in both individual’s and family’s lives.  It is important because we are at war against a subtle, highly intelligent foe and only the Person of Jesus Christ and truth of God’s word can equip us to sustain the war.  Believers need a cadre’ of other Christians to support, challenge and correct each other – to discipline the body of Christ, his church, to prevail against Satan’s perpetual denial of glory that belongs to the triune God alone. 
 

 

Why is church membership important?  Biblical church membership follows the act of conversion when a regenerated sinner that has been baptized by immersion submits themselves to the authority of Jesus Christ in the church.  It is important because the church presents God’s witness to Himself in the world. It displays his glory. In the church’s membership, then, non-Christians should see in the lives of God’s changed people that God is holy and gracious and that his gospel is powerful for saving and transforming sinners.

 

As Paul wrote in Ephesians 3, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think...to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”  These are pivotal and powerful words written to define the ministry of the local church.   Yes, the local church with all its sinners, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, is the agency God has appointed for saving the lost, edifying the believer, administering the ordinances, and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ so that the nations of the earth might be glad! 

Sola Deo Gloria,  

Pastor Carey

 

 


Spring 2010 - Understanding the Resurrection

 

I just completed reading Timothy Keller's New York Time's best seller – The Reason for God. Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan having started the church in 1989. His ministry has been fruitful in a sea of secular thought and relativism. It has been fruitful because the Holy Spirit has blessed the word as Keller remains faithful to God's word. The power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ still confounds the wisdom of this world!


Keller's book was written in 2008 after several atheists had penned books voicing their opinions as to the non-existence of God. These include Sam Harris' “Letters to a Christian Nation”, Christopher Hitchens', “God is not Great”, and Richard Dawkins', “The God Delusion”. To a man each of these unbelievers attack the primary element of our faith in Jesus Christ – his resurrection. It is the resurrection of our Savior, indeed the Savior of the world, that has always challenged the seemingly rational minded person and fostered the demand for water tight evidence as to a tangible, resurrected Christ.


Man's struggle with the resurrection and eternal life is as old as history. Job, thought by most theologians to be the oldest book in the Bible, declared “If a man dies, shall he live again?”, Job 14:8. I have used this passage many time at funerals to remind the families of the deceased that all people struggle with the unknown and fear death. Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Is there meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?” So the struggle with what awaits us after this life, if anything, is not new nor is it seriously challenged by the vehemence of today's atheists as they rail against the Resurrection.


Modern thought evaluated the supernatural and jettisoned it on the heap of ignorance and the uneducated. Post moderns have reevaluated and rewritten the Christian faith to make it more palatable and accepted by the educated and erudite. Mere thinking over the years since the Enlightenment has eliminated the miracles of the Scriptures and relegated Jesus the Christ to being, at best, the equal of other great thinkers. And slowly the church has acquiesced to the demoting of Christ to the mantra of equality. We fear anyone and everyone that claims to have a superior way, or method, or person.


But Jesus cannot be equal to the others due to the claim of the resurrection. The fact that He was crucified and died, buried, and supernaturally rose from the dead on that first Easter Sunday morning means that he is not equal. Either He is superior, or wacko, as my wife would say. Many are the reasons for factual evidence as to the veracity of this event. Some of the facts are:


 

  • Most of the Apostles were alive when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 as well as more than 500 persons that witnessed the risen Christ Jesus.

  • Historical accounts in the 1st century differed from fictional accounts. In fact, recent anthropological studies show that ancient cultures clearly distinguished between fiction and history.

  • The Gospels record that women were the first to witness the empty tomb and resurrected Lord. There is no advantage to the church to recount that the first witnesses were women. To the first century mind, women were not allowed as credible witnesses in the courts of the day. N. T. Wright argues that there must have been tremendous pressure on the Gospel writers to remove the women from the accounts. So much for the denigration of women in Christianity.

  • Greco-Roman thinking detested the thought of a resurrection that would reunite souls and body. Liberation occurred in their philosophy when soul and body were separated from each other. This led eventually to Gnostic thought that rejected the supernatural Incarnation. The Gospels were written much earlier than the Gnostic gospels and countered the heresy of Gnosticism with the facts of the resurrection.

There are many other arguments for the factual evidence of the resurrection. But perhaps the single greatest argument is the explosion of the early church. The resurrection caused a massive shift in thinking in the Roman world. Jesus arose on Caesar's day, to counter the claim of the Caesars as the Son of God. It is thinking of a curious nature that believes that uneducated, non-political, common fishermen, tax collectors, and the like, could influence nations over three hundred years to cause the monumental shift in history. The truth of the resurrection explosion is unprecedented in history and started immediately after Jesus arose because He did rise from the dead!


Nothing in history can be proven in a test tube. We are then held captive to the persuasions of other fallible human beings to record history without prejudice. Starting from the biased premise that miracles cannot occur many reject the hard work of answering very tough historical questions and following the answers where they lead. Once anyone rejects certain qualifiers for truth, the truth cannot be revealed. As again N.T. Wright responds, “The early Christians did not invent the empty tomb and the meetings or sightings of the risen Jesus. Nobody was expecting this kind of thing; no kind of conversion experience would have invented it, no matter how guilty (or how forgiven) they felt, no matter how many hours they poured over the scriptures. To suggest otherwise is to stop doing history and enter into a fantasy world of our own.”


Let us not forget that people in the 1st century were as incredulous as 21st century people about the resurrection. The only way then and now that anyone embraces the resurrection of Jesus Christ is by letting the evidence challenge and change their worldview, their view of what IS possible.


As Paul preached to Herod Agrippa, king of Palestine, basically why do you find it hard to believe that God could raise the dead. The same claim rings true today – because Jesus did resurrect we are to preach the Gospel, make disciples, and work to make this world a better place.


Sola Deo Gloria,


Pastor Carey

 


Perusal* – January 2010, Understanding Biblical Evangelism


(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)


Mathew 28:16, Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.


Brit Hume, Fox News Senior Analyst, said recently that Tiger Woods should seek redemption and forgiveness for his lifestyle in the hopes that he could save his marriage and family:


"He's said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith," Hume said, "so my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.'"


Believers should applaud Mr. Hume for “speaking the truth in love.” With clarity, insight, and compassion Mr. Hume presented the truth that is at the core of the Gospel. He evangelized, not in an overt way, but certainly with candor and respect. He has now been compared to an Islamic extremist for his choice of words. Just words mind you, not violence or the strapping of bombs to his body and exposing even little children to radical means in order to compel them to convert.


Our world and particularly western culture is awash with much sentimentality and confusion about the Christian faith. Unfortunately many churches mistake acceptance of ALL faiths as paths to the inner light and God. There is a frightening rise in the number of evangelicals that believe that other faiths or religions provide a highway to heaven. Fearing we will fall into Brit Hume’s narrow mindset, we eschew the veracity of scripture and supremacy of Jesus Christ. We have jettisoned His glory for our own, made the Gospel into a process or procedure, and downplayed doctrine because it divides. Little wonder Mr. Hume is being chastised – even the church is ashamed of unabashed faith.


What is evangelism and why does it matter? Is it a prayer, making Jesus Christ your personal Savior, walking an aisle or submitting to baptism? Mr. Hume is being criticized because our world assumes that evangelism in the name of our Lord is imposition. All those Christians are trying to do is impose their beliefs on the world. Are we imposing?


In order to know what biblical evangelism consists of it is important to discuss what is not evangelism. There are many good things believers are involved in which are not the Gospel. In fact, Augustine said, “ sin is not necessarily loving bad things, but loving good thing inordinately”. It is important to aid people, to foster their personal development and befriend them in the name of our Savior. But these methods are not evangelism. These situations may be pre-evangelism, but not biblical evangelism proper. Jesus was kind when the situation called for kindness, but he was also offensive and abrasive when people misinterpreted or misunderstood scripture. In fact He corrected on more than one occasion errant theology by stating “…you do err not knowing the scriptures or the power of God.” If the scriptures are important to the Savior, I suspect they are important to his disciples.


This leads us back to the definition of evangelism. Social action is not evangelism because it does not declare the Gospel. There is no “social gospel” identified in the New Testament. There is only THE Gospel. And THE Gospel requires us to acknowledge we have sinned against each other, but primarily we have sinned against God. He is the offended One. And He can offend because He is God!


Evangelism is not apologetics, the defense of our faith before skeptics. Apologetics can lead to evangelism, but the Gospel must be shared while using scripture and logic to reason about the faith. Evangelism is not the number of people walking aisles or submitting to baptism. It is not based upon numbers, it is based upon Jesus Christ and His completed work.


Biblically, evangelism is simply telling the evangel - clearly articulating the gospel of Jesus Christ and the claim that the gospel puts on people to repent and believe. 


To evangelize is to declare on the authority of God what he has done to save sinners, to warn men of their lost condition, to direct them to repent, and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." John Cheesman, The Grace of God in the Gospel.


Ultimately believers should evangelize out of our love for God. This love cultivates love for lost mankind. Quoting John Cheesman again:


Love for God is the only sufficient motive for evangelism. Self-love will give way to self-centeredness; love for the lost will fail with those whom we cannot love, and when difficulties seem insurmountable. Only a deep love for God will keep us following His way, declaring his gospel, when human resources fail.”


Love for God will result in a desire to obey His commands and promote His glory by gathering more worshippers and making more disciples. “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” 1Peter 2:12.


So biblically, while we are to care, to plead, and to persuade, our first duty is to be faithful to the obligation we have from God, which is to present the same Good News that He's given to us.  As we present the gospel in all its simple clarity, we also need to clearly call people to repentance from their sins and belief in the death and resurrection of Christ as the substitute penalty for our sins. 


Evangelism means we need to communicate three important facts about repentance and belief:


It's costly. Remember what Jesus says to the rich young ruler?  If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Matt 19:21).  It's not that we must tell our unbelieving friends to sell all their possessions to become Christians.  But we need to present honestly God's demand that we forsake anything we trust or choose above God.


It's urgent.  A helpful way of communicating urgency is to winsomely discourage our friends from waiting for a better deal to come along.  There is no better deal, because there is no other way to escape the penalty, power, and presence of sin (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom 10; Heb 4:7). 


It's rewarding.  After an honest and sober presentation of the cost and urgency of repentance and belief, we are free to communicate their worth and fruit.  We gain forgiveness of our sins, and God credits Christ's acquittal to us.  We get relationship with God Himself, we are loved by Jesus as His brothers and sisters, we are filled with His Spirit, and given every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph 1).


Biblical evangelism should occur from born again believers in a local church. That’s the New Testament way, God’s way, and should be our way. When we are obedient God will bring conversions from our presenting this Good News.  Our prayer is that the message of Brit Hume may challenge, not only Tiger Woods, but others as well.


Sola Deo Gloria!


Pastor Carey

 


 

 

 

Perusal* – Winter 2009, Understanding Conversion


(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)


Acts 15:3
So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the
conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.


Jesus Christ told Nicodemus in John 3, you must be born again. Nicodemus was a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin, a rabbi of great renown, but something was missing. And Jesus clearly chastised him for not knowing the scriptures. “Are you a leader in Israel and you do not know these things?” If this man needing a spiritual rebirth, where does that leave you and I?


There must be a work of God in our lives that changes us from a God hating, rebellious, “I'll do it my way” sinner, to a child of God. The good news of Jesus Christ becoming the incarnate Son of God to save people from their sins, is more than just a fanciful focus for “do-gooders”. His death declared to a lost world that we, not God, need to change. And the Bible refers to that change within us as conversion. It is what takes place when we do realize how dreadful our sin is to a loving, holy God, repent of our sin and exercise faith in the Lord Jesus.


Conversion today conjures up images of radicalism, of Jihad and forceful, even violent terrorism. Especially anything that smacks of religious conversion. After all the Western culture has enjoyed freedom of and freedom from religion for hundreds of years. Why do we need a change? And why is it important?


Conversion indicates change. All of us are resistant to change especially if the change impacts our own self-assessment. Our culture has emphasized the acceptance of everyone – we are encouraged to embrace everyone's faults and foibles even in the face of needed reformation. Political correctness has supposedly freed us for self-fulfillment and worth. As a result our perception of self is based upon acceptance and tolerance. In fact, tolerance has become the clarion call for acceptance. We are not only expected to tolerate others behavior and they my behavior, but we are to embrace each others behavior.


The Bible is the world's source for true spiritual instruction. Our assessment of needs is most often incompatible with what the Bible declares about our needs. In fact, many that profess Jesus as Lord presume upon His good graces with an attitude similar to the French philosopher Voltaire's exclamation - “God will forgive me...that is His job!” But God's word clearly teaches that every person requires deep, personal, heart change. It emphasizes that ... you were dead in your trespasses and sins ... and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Eph 2:1, 3).


No one has escaped the stain of sin and no protocol of personal fulfillment will changes us spiritually. There may be short term developmental gains, but the true nature of our rebellion against a holy God will not be understood unless we are exposed to Jesus Christ as taught by the New Testament. Our spiritual condition is too grievous for us to change on our own. Jesus Christ is necessary for spiritual renewal.


Man is made in God's image and one of the characteristics of God's image is love. Mankind has this capacity although it is marred by our sin. But there is good news! God's love can be applied to our hearts when we are born again, when we repent of our sins and entrust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Louis Berkhof speaks of conversion as "a change of thoughts and opinions, of desires and volitions, which involves the conviction that the former direction of life was unwise and wrong and alters the entire course of life".


The Bible presents conversion as God giving us the desire to repent and believe. Biblical conversion does involve our repentance and belief. But it is God who is behind the scenes working in our hearts to produce that repentance and belief in us.


Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; [why?] for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13).


Conversion must be God's work because we are unable to produce repentance and belief on our own. In preaching the gospel, the Bible tells us that the preacher is really preaching to a bunch of lifeless corpses. (Ezek 37:1-14; Eph 2:1-3) Therefore, whether we stand in the pulpit or sit in the pew, we are dependent on God to produce this repentance and belief in us. God calls people with preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, enabling them to hear and respond to the good news. He gifts persons with the free gifts of repentance and faith, we believe and are saved.


The understanding of biblical conversion is essential to the life and health of any church. This understanding must begin with a clear acceptance of the Bible's teaching about our sinfulness and our Lord's willingness to forgive. God receives the glory for it is God who is at work to bring glory to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. We receive the promise of being born from above. Nicodemus learned this. My prayer is that you will as well.


Sola Deo Gloria,

Pastor Carey


Perusal* – Autumn 2009, A Biblical Understanding of the Gospel


(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)


1 Corintians 15:1-3; Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,


For 2000 years the clarion call for Christianity has been the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is fundamental to understanding the life and death of the Savior. Jesus was relentless in telling the crowds that pressed about him, “the Son of Man is come to seek and to save those that are lost.” Self-righteous persons need not apply - only those that see themselves as desperate, lost sinners. So why is the understanding of the Good News from a biblical perspective important today?


The evangel, the good news of the Savior Jesus Christ becoming the incarnate Son of God to save his people from their sins, is of little significance in our enlightened and post-modern world. But the Gospel stresses the urgency to respond to the call of our Lord, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Is belief in the gospel a matter of simply giving cognitive assent to the propositional truth about God and Jesus? May someone legitimately become born again simply by walking an aisle or praying a prayer? The demands of Jesus Christ; forsaking all, seeking His glory above our own, grabbing the handles of the plow and not looking back, not to mention taking up a cross and following his lead – are any of these pertinent to this discussion? And why is any of this important?


The Bible is not just a lot of words on sheets of paper. It is dynamic; literally the phrase “Word of God” in the Gospels means “the word that comes from God.” This Word tells us that there is something drastically and fatally wrong with the world; it is not as it should be. We are not as we should be. In fact the reality of sin is visible every single day of our lives, not only our sin but the sins of others. We are in a dire predicament and need a solution. The word that comes from God describes man’s predicament and a remedy. The remedy is the Cross, an instrument of death on which the Savior of the world was crucified. Any departure from the Cross is another gospel.


The Scriptures do not take lightly another gospel. "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed (Gal 1:8-9)!"


Getting the Gospel right therefore is of seminal importance. It is not man’s self-esteem that is the issue. I have met few people, including myself, whose esteem is too low. We generally think too highly of ourselves and often consider self to be better than other persons. But the Bible claims that we are NOT to think of ourselves too highly.


Rom. 12:2-4; For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.


Our problem is not low self-esteem – it is pride. Our hearts are far from God and deceitful.

 

  • The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it (Jer 17:9)?

  • And you were dead in your trespasses and sins ... and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Eph 2:1, 3).

  • There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one (Rom 3:10-12).

The gospel is NOT that we are all OK with God. Humanity's biggest problem is that our own sin has shut us up to spiritual death - eternal separation from the God whose fellowship we were created to enjoy, and slavery to the power and penalty of sin. “The will”, Augustine said, “is free, but not freed.” If we consistently or deliberately omit sin from our preaching or from our evangelism, we are preaching a different gospel, and need to repent of this sin and preach God's truth with bold, counter-cultural clarity.


The very fact of Calvary’s cross displays the wretchedness of our sin and the refusal in our pride to acknowledge that God is true and every man a liar. But what of God’s love? Indeed God loves us and Calvary is the evidence of His amazing love. When we portray that God’s love is some sentimental emotion that overwhelms His holiness and justice we have fostered a caricature of His true nature. Yes, God does love us and desires all come to repentance, but the Scriptures are clear that all will not come.


The gospel is not primarily about having a friend in Jesus, although He is our friend when we repent and believe. We were created to have fellowship with God forever, to enjoy His goodness and beauty, but lost this relationship through our sin. Thankfully, God bridged the insurmountable gap of our sin and His love in Jesus Christ. We now can have this relationship restored. The Gospel is primarily about bringing glory to God the Father through His Son.


The Gospel is also not about adhering to a prescribed set of “do’s and don’ts” as if morality was an acceptable substitute for the righteousness of Christ. It is not an additive to make our lives a little better by perhaps digging deeper or pulling ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps.


The Gospel is a message about God, Man, Christ, and our Response to God’s call. God is both our sovereign Creator and righteous Judge. Because He created us in His image He has the right and authority to make certain demands upon our lives. As already stated we have sinned and have incurred His wrath. This truth is ignored today, but it is every bit as real as His love. Now God has recognized that men and women, boys and girls cannot please Him in our present sinful condition. The solution to our diabolical problem is the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ alone has satisfied His Father’s wrath as he became the propitiation for our sin, satisfying the Father and securing sinners’ redemption. We are called to respond to this good news in repentance and belief - turning away from our sin and self-sufficiency toward God, and trusting in the shed blood of Jesus Christ as the substitute penalty that we deserved for our sin.


The gospel of Jesus Christ is its own power - it is the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18). Therefore, when the power of God's Word is watered down by impotence, or methods that pander to cultural preferences, it is as if the gospel isn't strong enough to conquer its most ardent enemies and convert its weakest believers! We must rely on the Word of God to perform it's own creating, convicting, converting, conforming work as we preach and teach the whole counsel of God in its plain, Christ-centered meaning.


Churches do not exist apart from the Gospel. At the heart of every Christ-centered church is the gospel – it is the red hot core of the life changing power of God and should be at the center of everything Flat Creek and other churches do to glorify our Savior.


Sola Deo Gloria!

 

Pastor Carey

 



 

Perusal* – August 2009, The Importance of Biblical Theology


(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)


Titus 2:1 But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:


I read an interesting statement last week – “Whether devout or agnostic, we are all theologians.” Recently a person mentioned that they didn’t like to listen to sermons that describe the meaning of certain words in the scriptures. How boring! Certainly the needs in our day are greater than dead words on a page. Excite us to do something, cause us to get involved, break it down into 3 easy steps or 5 basic principles. Better yet, make it into a movie. A friend of mine was fond of saying, “excuse me while my eye glaze over.” All this focus on theology causes my head to hurt.


But are we all theologians? And can we know the triune God experientially or do we as sinners need for Him to reveal to us His nature? Is there a characteristic of God that cloaks His attributes and infinite characteristics from our easily deceived souls? Are the very words of scripture important? We should answer with a thundering “Yes”! For the words of scripture, the doctrine, is what God uses to convict sinners of their sins, convince them of their need for a Savior, and save them in the character and person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Biblical theology is important for the very reason that a good, fundamental grasp of the nature of God, man, sin, the church, our Christian responsibilities and the like serve to develop mature disciples. And establishing and growing mature disciples fulfills the prime directive of the Great Commission.


So, what is biblical theology? It is best described as a comprehensive understanding of the historical time line of the Bible. Notice I did not say systematic theology, which is concerned with exegesis of unique doctrines and their logical progression in scripture. But I did say “comprehensive” because the main theological precepts (doctrines) in the Bible are discernible. Paul instructed every church and two pastoral disciples, Titus and Timothy, to speak or pronounce (preach) those things. Our Lord stated that all authority was given to Him in this world and for the church, His body, to make disciples from His doctrine. Teaching these amazing truths should cause believers to wonder at God’s amazing grace, and sinners to tremble at the prospect of not falling at His feet in repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ.


God’s word is given to us to bring us to His Son. There are no doctrines in scripture that are meant to bring harm to the church. Preaching expositionally forces the pastor to systematically exegete the theology of particularly hard sayings such as divine sovereignty and election. It causes the church to see God as He is in His revealed word and question such statements as “we are all theologians.” One of the very purposes of biblical theology is to avoid removal of those scriptures that are sometimes intentionally offensive so that God’s people and lost sinners, may see distinct lines of demarcation between the theologies of the world and the theology of His church.


Gal. 1:6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.


Does the method of preaching and teaching in a church obscure or reveal the true character of God and His glory? Is the simple gospel effectively communicated? Martin Luther said that if we preach everything but that one point of doctrine which in our time and culture is unpopular, we flee from the very battle we are called to fight. Paul taught the church “sound” or healthy and accurate adherence to the doctrines of the Bible, being faithful to its message even when others are abandoning the texts as too controversial and substituting all manner of church growth techniques on the altar of pragmatism. What Paul meant was for pastors to believe, obey, and preach all the counsel of God in such a way that it is accurate, reliable and faithful.


What are the benefits to the church? If we want to live lives that please God in every way, then we must know something of who God is, what He desires from us, how he wants us to walk before Him, and the traits in His character that He delights to see reproduced in us. Biblical theology therefore functions in the local church to inform pastor and believing member alike of how we can please God in our behavior. It demonstrates to us His character and ways noticeably written in the wounds suffered by the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s hill as He redeemed to Himself a peculiar people.


Preaching and teaching biblical theology while expounding scripture expositionally is in practice at Flat Creek. Our Sunday School classes, Lord's Day worship, Sunday evening and Wednesday bible studies are focused on mining the Bible for the nuggets of truth that exalt and glorify the Lord of all – Jesus Christ!

Sola Deo Gloria!


Pastor Carey


Perusal* – July 2009, The Necessity of Expository Preaching


(* perusal; to examine or consider with attention and in detail)


1 Timothy 4:6 If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. 7 But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.


There was a time in the Western world when even lost souls understood something of the Word of God. Read from pastors and preachers of a hundred years ago and you will find that biblical knowledge was more prevalent than today. The Bible was, if you please, common language. But people did reverence the scriptures. They were used for hundreds of years as the foundation for most education in the western world. Pastors were schooled in the theology of God’s word and were taught that the only lasting change that is brought about in people is solely by the Holy Spirit and the rigorous exposition of the truth of God.


Expositional preaching is preaching which expounds what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. It is a commitment to hearing God’s Word and to recovering the centrality of it in our worship. This manner of preaching was, at one time, the fundamental element for developing maturity in the life of believers. Pastors and congregations understood that the Word facilitated worship of our Lord Jesus Christ. They understood there is no worship until the Word of God is proclaimed. They left their entertainment outside of the church and humbly, reverently and respectfully anticipated God to speak to them about the beauty of His Son. The Word of the Lord held their attention because they longed for good news that comes only through the gospel of Jesus Christ.


In our world of “my tolerance trumps your tolerance” the absolute truth of God’s word has been jettisoned for anecdotal or illustrative talks that only use Scripture as a launch pad. After all, can’t colorful stories or amusing routines share God’s intentions? Do we really need another long, boring sermon? Today the respect God’s people, His church, should have for His Word is mimicked, but often ignored.

The local church is the primary receptacle for His word and preachers are merely conduits through which the word of God flows freely and intelligently to teach His church. His word is enabled by His Spirit to do the work of God in His people. Let’s face it, we all have our agendas – expositional preaching assures that the only agenda the pastor has is found in the text’s agenda. The commitment of the pastor to faithfulness in preaching the text before him develops maturity in him and subsequently in the flock.


2 Timothy 2:1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.


God’s word is performative, that is, it performs what it prescribes. When Paul instructs Timothy to instruct the church at Ephesus he does so knowing that the biblical doctrine which enables him to be a good minister will also manifest itself in the lives of the people. Pastors should not try to preach some new thing or latest discovery but educate the church in the doctrines of our Lord. These in turn will produce “good soldiers”.


Preaching expositionally a pastor, over time, committed to the congregation where God has placed him, will preach the “whole counsel of God”. The people of God exposed to the truth of God consistently and systematically will increase the knowledge of the Holy, increase trust in the sufficiency of Scripture, and decrease the likelihood of being deceived by false teaching.


Sola Deo Gloria!


Pastor Carey

 

 
BYW in Action - Annual Events!

The Flat Creek Family's BYW (Baptist Young Women) are an integral part of our church's missions efforts.  In conjunction with Sunday School, Word of Life on Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening mIssion's studies, they aid in bringing up their children in the nurture and instruction of our Lord.  The children that have a desire to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord are taken through a six week course, "I'm a Christian Now!".  This course is similar to the catechisms of old that were used to instruct not only children, but any new convert in the fundamentals of faith.  Our young ladies learn from mature ladies how to instruct their children, keep the home, and submit both to our Lord Jesus and a godly husband.  Praise the Lord for their generosity and humilty.    

They also sponsor a number of annual events at Flat Creek:

  • annual Easter egg hunt will take place @ 10 a.m., April 4th, 2015, with focus on our Lord's passion - His crucifixion, burial and glorious resurrection! 
  • annual Trunk or Treat, an alternative to the hype of Halloween
  • annual VBS, Vacation Bible School, during the Summer months
  • annual Living Nativity Scene or Children's play in the month of December

Young ladies are welcome to come along and join in the activities and missions being done in service and love.

 
News From Flat Creek Baptist - 2016; Easter Celebration, 3/27/16

Tell your friends to check out the FlatCreekFamily.org website!  Log in and check the calendar for events and reminders!


Coming Attractions - 2016

 

Sonrise Worship @ 7 a.m. - Daniel Miear will lead us to praise God and enjoy the wonder of new life found in Jesus Christ! Our choir will celebrate with the Cantata, "Jesus, Only Jesus!" at 11 a.m. and a sermon from our pastor, "Skeptics and the Resurrection!".  Join with us to glorify the crucified and resurrected One, the Lord Jesus Christ! 

 

Flat Creek is a missionary church committed to expository preaching/teaching and is continually involved in outreach.  The following opportunities exist for service to our Lord Jesus Christ and aid to the people of God: 

  • Expository preaching focus in the epistle of Paul to the church at Rome, the gospel of Grace. During 2016 the messages will be from Romans on the Gospel of God to the Entire World!

Worship with the Flat Creek family during 2016 and celebrate our Savior and worship His name above all others.  

Please call Flat Creek church office @ 434-237-1917 for further information. 

Flat Creek also provides Biblically based and theologically sound expositional Bible teaching & learning opportunities for the Lynchburg area.  For example; 

  • Our Ladies are studying in early 2016 study, the Book of Ruth.
  • Graduated Sunday School classes for all ages @ 9:45 a.m. Sunday mornings 
  • Kid's Korral for children ages 4-11 and "Children Desiring God" during Worship for Grades 2 and under.
  • Sunday Evening: Word of Life for children from 1st – 6th grade & B.O.M. (Beacons for the Master) Squad for teen-agers.
  • March to Maturity -  During the Summer Sunday Evening months we will learn from a number of great bible preachers from 9 Marks and the Gospel Coalition.  Join us as we learn of this vital teaching from our Lord Jesus.
  • Membership Matters Training - focused on providing new believers and prospective members with the fundamentals of our Faith and history of Flat Creek. Now studying about "Elders" and our responsibility to lead God's people.
  • On Wednesday evenings be a part of Southern Baptist Missions groups that train and serve to extend the Great Commission. Our adults have completed  expositional studies on the Pastoral Epistles, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. We are now studying Genesis!
  • Street Lights is a young adult small group that meets every other Thursday evening to study the Word and minister to the Hand's Up shelter in Lynchburg, Va. As Tim Glick, Willy Belton, and others minister in the Word, lives are being converted and new opportunities for ministry uncovered.  The power of the gospel to change lives is as relevant today as ever.

 

All of our activities and opportunities are important, but none more so than Sunday morning worship.  Flat Creek is a place where the Truth of the Word of God is faithfully preached and taught, the Christian ordinances of believer's baptism and Lord's Supper are regularly celebrated, and our deacons and staff watch over the spiritual and temporal welfare of the people.  Gather with us on the Lord’s day to worship Him in prayer, giving, celebration in music, and expository proclamation of God’s Word.

 
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