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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Church and State

This fall the United States Supreme Court will hear a case that is certain to spark the return of church-state tension in Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum. Unlike earlier cases, the issue in Pleasant Grove City is not whether a Ten Commandments display in a public setting is legal. Rather, the Court will decide whether a local government may refuse to display an "Aphorisms" statue donated by the religious sect Summum when the city already displays a donated Ten Commandments monument. The "Aphorisms" statue displays the principle beliefs of the sect.

Summum sued, claiming that the government's refusal to display its statue in the park was a violation of its right to free speech. The Court has held in earlier cases that public officials may not discriminate against groups in public parks because of their messages or religion. The Tenth Circuit applied the free speech test and required the city to either display all religious monuments donated by third parties or display none of the donated monuments.

With concerns that the Tenth Circuit decision will require the removal of historic religious displays, both local governments and religious groups will be closely watching this case. We should be praying.

Summum originated in the fall of 1975 when Claude Rex Nowell began to have a series of encouters with highly intelligent spiritual beings. As a result this religous sect developed a gnostic approach to life. That is they believe in order to free yourself from the inferior material world, one needs gnosis, or spiritual knowledge available to all through direct experience or knowledge (gnosis) of God. This knowledge is generally found inside one's self. Their mission is "To help you liberate and emancipate you from yourself and turn you into an Overcomer".

For a short video review of the case click here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Recent PBF Sermons

We are having some technical problems uploading sermons to our website. In the meantime, we'll have links here on the blog to our sermons on an external site. Thanks for your patience.

Sept 7 - Ephesians 3:8-9
Aug 24 - Ephesians 2:19-22
Aug 17 - Ecclesiastes 2:1-11
Aug 10 - Ephesians 2:14-18
Aug 3 - Ephesians 2:11-13

Friday, September 12, 2008

Derek Thomas and Ligon Duncan

Check out this interview which moves into a discussion of present evangelism in the church.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Evangelism and Church

The past two Sunday mornings Greg has preached on Paul's passion for evangelism and how that should impact our lives. The blog below offers further thought for you this week.

Over at The Sola Panel, Tony Payne asks the question, "Is church for evangelism?" . In his post he addresses the issue of evangelism and the focus of the christian assembly.

An interesting response by Ken Stewart, professor of theological studies at Covenant College, is worth pointing out..."Perfectly orthodox churches need to hear the gospel preached and to witness its power in transforming the curious and unbelieving. So many perfectly orthodox churches are 'starved' of the opportunity to observe people visibly responding to the gospel because that response is no longer sought. So, years pass into decades during which no one has been known to be effectually called under the preaching of the Word, because the preacher has not sought any such result."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Selected Psalms: Psalm 1

How fitting that the very first Psalm details the vital nature of God’s word in the life of the Psalmist.

1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.

Blessed literally mean happy. Happy is the man. Happy is the man who is not influenced by the world, who does not look like the world, who does not act like the world. A friend recently told me that he’s been giving a lot of thought to what it means to be worldly. He’s been asking himself in what ways has worldliness worked its way into his life. It’s a great question and one which most believers probably do not consider.

How can we know what it means to be worldly? How is it that we can be prevented from living a worldly life? Psalmist gives us an indication in the next line:

2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Passion and time. The happy man delights in the word of God, his passion is the word of God, and because of that he spends his time meditating on it. When we hear the word meditation, we may automatically think of the ungodly practice of transcendental meditation, wherein a person completely empties his mind of everything. That certainly is not the idea here. Biblical meditation is the spiritual discipline of filling your mind with one thing – Scripture. I won’t take the time to go into methods of doing this, but here is a link to Don Whitney’s website. Dr. Whitney is a professor at Southern Seminary who does conferences all over the country on the spiritual disciplines. On this page you’ll find a link to a downloadable file outlining various methods of Scriptural meditation.

Passion for the Word of God has become an uncommon thing. I’m convinced that this has resulted from the decline of strong biblical teaching in the church. When a people are not encountering the Bible every Sunday, it becomes very easy to forget about its power, its relevance, and its sufficiency. However, when the text of Scripture is faithfully exposed to God’s people, the Holy Spirit Himself argues for its power, relevance, and sufficiency.

Passion and time. What do you do if you don’t have a deep passion for God’s Word? Time. Spend time in the Word, praying that the Holy Spirit will illuminate the text. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Read it. Pray it. Sing it. If you’ll do that, the passion will follow. It may be that that well of passion for the Word in your life isn’t completely dry. The pump just needs to be primed.

I encourage you to read the rest of this Psalm here and answer these questions:

What will the man who delights in the Word be like?

How many observations can you make about that tree? (How will it be planted? Where will it be planted? Etc.)

What kind of person is contrasted with the man who delights in the Word?

What will he be like?

What other observation can be made about these two kinds of people in vv5-6?

How might the imagery of the tree and the chaff apply to your life?

May the Lord bless your time in this wonderful Psalm and may it be said of you that your delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law you meditate day and night.

Psalm 119:162 I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Even Here

Certainly there are plenty of Christians being persecuted around the world but it is seldom that we find that same hostility in our own cities and neighborhoods. In Forest Park, Ohio, a suburb just south of where Providence meets, a church was riddled with bullet holes overnight. Police Officers responded to the scene after hearing multiple gunshots.

Officers arrested the suspect as he was leaving the church. When the suspect was asked why he shot into the church his response was, "I'm tired of people saying 'in Jesus name'". He disavows all religion and has a particular disdain for Christianity.

We should never forget to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ, all around the world, who face daily dangers because of their beliefs. And thank God, He has shown us mercy and protected us from harm. Let us not forget also to pray for this congregation and the person who holds such animosity in his heart.

You can find the story the local paper carried here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Sufficiency of Scripture

Many evangelicals hold to the inerrancy of Scripture but we have seemed to have lost the battle when it comes to the sufficiency of Scripture. We draw hard lines when the Bible is attacked and said to be erroneous by liberal theologians and unbelievers. But, we are slow to stand when people question whether Scripture is sufficient for the church and the follower of Christ.

The focus of how we do church and live our lives should be driven by God’s Word. This does not mean that I am against certain methods or strategies. God has uniquely gifted and equipped His followers to spread His gospel. He will grow His church and He has ordained us to be part of that growth.

The question we must ask ourselves, however, is; are we guided by God’s Word or by man’s techniques and philosophies? Do we have confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture? Do we trust in the power of God or in the power of ourselves? II Corinthians 3:5 says “our sufficiency is from God”. Our sufficiency is not from man or man’s wisdom. Our sufficiency to live a life according to God’s plan, for His glory, is from Him.

Our theology must drive our methodology. If our method is in line with God’s leading and God’s Word we should be full throttle in carrying out His desires. If our method besmirches His leading or His Word our quick cessation is required.

Over the next few weeks we will examine what the Bible says about its authority and power. My desire is that we look at Scripture and let it speak for itself.