Blessed Weekly Remembrances


I am writing this during what the church calendar calls Holy Week.  That means that this Sunday is Easter.  It is the day that the Church, by and large, remembers the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  If you were to visit our church this Lord’s Day you would find us singing some songs celebrating the triumph of Jesus from the dead and, no doubt, one of our pastors (I’ll be on vacation) preaching a message related to this triumph.  In most regards, however,  our service this Lord’s Day will be no different from any of the other 51 Lord’s Days of the year.  In fact, we will make very  little of this particular Easter Sunday because we see every Lord’s Day in this way.  That is, every single Lord’s Day is equally a reminder of the risen Jesus.  Our church believes that the Lord’s Day is not only a weekly celebration of the resurrection (and the descent of the Spirit), but that it is rooted in the fourth commandment as well (that command calls us to ‘remember’ the day and why we are to remember it).  Therefore the weekly coming of the first day of the week is a blessed remembrance to us of several things.

Every week I am reminded that I have a Creator.

The Sabbath is rooted in the facts of Creation.

Every week I am reminded that I have a Lawgiver.

The Sabbath, though a great gift to man, is a moral obligation of the King of Creation.

Every week I am reminded of the weakness of my flesh.

The coming of the New Covenant did not rewrite the DNA of our humanity.  We are weak creatures who need (and apparently who need to be told) to take a weekly rest.

Just as I am reminded of my rest in Jesus so I am reminded of the need for my body to rest from my labors.

Every week I am reminded that I am redeemed man.

Why do I delight to take a day to be in God’s house and among God’s people and to refresh myself in rest, worship, service, reflection, and fellowship?  One reason: Jesus laid hold of me and changed my heart.

Every week I am reminded that I am part of a community.

I love the gathering of God’s people.  I am glad when it is said, Let US go into the house of the Lord.

Every week I am reminded of the fading nature of this world and the incomparable glory of the world to come.

I need time away from the world and the things of the world (even those innocent, acceptable and necessary things) so that they do not constantly grip my heart and my attention.  Not only can I do without them, one day I will forever do without them.

I am reminded every week of the promise of a better, eternal Sabbath rest for the people of God.

Every week I am reminded of the reality of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church and the beauty of what the church is.

It was on the first day of the week that the Spirit came with power on the day of Pentecost.

I am reminded every single week that Jesus rose from the dead.  This is why the church has gathered every single Sunday for two thousand years.  No event in human history is so celebrated.  In a focused way when I make the decisions I do of what I will and won’t do, where I will and won’t go, what I will and won’t say, I am doing so not only under the shadow of the cross, but from the glorious light of the empty tomb.

Whither Reformed Baptists? Part Three of Four


1 Timothy 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

When my church constituted in September of 1991 there was some discussion about what we would call ourselves. It was eventually determined that we would simply call ourselves what we were–The Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville. In taking that name we were openly embracing the doctrinal distinctives that had come to mark us and that we would commit ourselves to uphold all our days together (you don’t need to use the name to do such). It was our conviction then, and it remains our conviction, that the sine qua non of Reformed Baptist churches was their adherence in principle and in practice to the biblical truths laid out in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. It was and has remained our conviction that the 1689 is the finest distillation of confessional truth that has ever been penned.
In this brief series of blogs, I have been posing the question of where we are going as a group of churches? Will there arise a younger generation of men committed to the truths and practices of their Baptist forefathers? Will the younger generation of Reformed Baptist who have inherited orderly churches press forward with the same vigor that marked the generation of church planters and church reformers?
My concern in this entry is whether those who have long held to the distinctive doctrines that mark historic confessional Baptist will continue to unashamedly embrace, expound, defend and propagate those truths to another generation. Will confessional Baptists thrive for future generations or will we give way to a form of doctrinal reductionism in the name of greater unity and church growth?
The question for those who have identified themselves as Confessional Baptist in the past is this–will we hold fast to the faithful Word as we have been taught? I am not talking here about the issues of Protestant orthodoxy, as much as I am historic Baptist principles. Will we be the generation that deviates from the doctrinal and practical standards of the past? Will we be ashamed of our views on the Law, the Sabbath, and the Regulative Principle of Worship, among other things? Are we tempted to bend the exclamation points of the past into question marks and if so, why?
A drifting from or rejection of open confessionalism seems me to arise for one of three reasons.
The first is that the embrace of these issues has resulted in an obnoxious doctrinal pride that grieved the Spirit and isolated us from true and useful believers who differed from us (trust me, this is not unique to Reformed Baptist). The second is that any focus on these distinctive truths will turn us inward and bring about a practical lack of evangelism and missions. It is along these lines feared that unbelievers will not want to be a part of churches who focus too much upon particular doctrines and practices that are so out of step with other churches and which is so radically different from the world in which they live. The third reason is our desire to be recognized and welcomed and fully embraced by the broader Reformed community. The top liners at the conferences, the major authors, and movers and shakers of the Reformed resurgence have not been men who hold to our Confession of Faith. Is the Confession a barrier to full acceptance, especially when our churches have been blessed with so many fine teachers and preachers? Why are these men not recognized in the broader Christian world?
The issue of doctrinal faithfulness cannot be overstated. As Reformed Baptist we have no popes or gurus that we gather around. Our connections and commitments have been forged in a fuller understanding of those truths that we believe bring glory to God, that edify the saints, and that will ultimately do the most good to the souls of the unconverted. What is a church to do who wants to be humble, useful, and participate in the good things God is doing in other places? Must we compromise or ignore those things that we once taught and embraced? The pressure that Paul warned Timothy of in the first century remains today: men will not endure sound doctrine. Our response is to preach the Word, to hold fast to the faithful word as we have been taught in faith and in love which are in Christ Jesus. It is to live empowered by the Holy Spirit who revealed and entrusted these truths to us (2 Timothy 1:13, 14; 4:1-5).

Whither Reformed Baptist? Part Two


In the relatively short span of my lifetime the evangelical world has witnessed a resurgence of the doctrines of grace among Baptist in America and abroad. Among those who adhere to the five points of Calvinism has been a subset of churches who call themselves Particular Baptist, Confessional Baptists, or Reformed Baptist (I sometimes call them capital ‘R’ Reformed to showcase our confessionalism as opposed to “New Covenant Theology” Baptist who sometimes take the moniker reformed Baptist). When I speak of Reformed Baptist I am addressing those churches who hold in principal and in practice substantial agreement with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Over the past 25 years I’ve been pastoring, I have seen the Lord bless our little ‘tribe’. There was a time when I think I knew the name of every Reformed Baptist Church in the US and at least one of their pastors. There have been so many churches planted and so many churches embracing not just Calvinism, but Confessionalism that I can no longer keep up. With these blessings have also come some concerns. I have not only witnessed churches birthed, but churches die. I have seen prominent men fall from their positions of esteem through gross sin. I have seen pockets of division (which I will address in part four of this series) erect walls of suspicion among brethren who ought to walk together. I’ve also seen some questioning the doctrines and practices they once proclaimed with power.

In part one I discussed the issue of leadership and the need to see young men not only raised up with gifts and graces for gospel ministry but also men with the Confessional convictions which have marked Particular Baptists for centuries. In this blog I want to address the issue of second and third generation fatigue. I mean this both doctrinally and practically. Reformed Baptist Churches have not only been marked by doctrinal convictions, but they have been marked, by and large, with a serious practical commitment of churchmanship that was expressed in ways that are increasingly out of step with our contemporary evangelical and even Reformed setting.

This tendency to fatigue over doctrine and practice among a second or third generation is something addressed repeatedly in the scriptures. One generation fights ‘for the land’ and a second generation is raised in the land. The new generation doesn’t remember the war. They don’t bear the scars. They didn’t feel the cost of church planting or even moving so that you could be in a setting where you could worship according to your convictions–it’s all simply been given to them. I see second and third generation Reformed Baptist who have embraced Christ and have, thankfully, been desirous to stay within the ecclesiastical framework of their youth. They want not only to be disciples, but Reformed Baptist. I bless the Lord for this. I also desire to see the fervent conquering, giving, self denying spirit that marked the previous generation grip them as well. Though the foundations may have been laid and the walls built up by their parents and grandparents, there is still land to conquer, enemies to defeat, and advances to seek after. Though I realize that the commitment to all the stated meetings (on the Lord’s Day and gatherings for prayer) and to giving can devolve into legalism, I saw firsthand these commitments embraced with love, zeal, and passion. Will the rising generation embrace both the faith and practices that marked their parents? The zeal that planted churches? The zeal that meant folks turned down promotions for the sake of the church? The zeal that birthed family conferences and various associations of churches?

I close with this question to all who read these words: If everyone in your church had your level of commitment would your church thrive or fold? Or to put it another way, if my folks had my commitment, would this church ever be here in the first place?

Whither Reformed Baptists? Part One

It has often been stated that the Lord Jesus referenced only the church twice in His earthly ministry.  The first time is in Matthew 16 wherein he stated that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church and the secondly in Matthew 18 wherein He envisions the necessity of church discipline against an impenitent member.  In these two statements, it has been said, we have the church triumphant and the church militant (struggling).  The history of the Church bears both these marks.  There are glorious stories of triumph and grievous stories of shame, infidelity, and retreat.

For over thirty years I have been part of Reformed Baptist Churches.   I have pastored one church for nearly 25 years and have sought to help other churches get planted.  I have been involved in ministerial training in the US, Africa and the Far East.  In recent months I have been thinking through the trajectory we, as churches,  seem to be on.  I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet.  My plan, in these blogs,  is to identify four areas of concern and articulate some course of action.

The first area of concern is that of future leadership.  While there are numerous Calvinistic Baptist movements marked by vigorous and youthful leadership, our churches are not yet among their number.  There are many of our churches where there are sole pastors and some of those churches are pastored by men of advancing years.  Not only can they not find a fellow elder to bring about a biblical plurality, they do not know who will lead their flock in the decades to come.  No pastor I know wants their churches to fade away when they are gone. They desire that God will replace them with robustly confessional men who love the Lord and His people and who will lead them to the green grass and cool waters of His Word for decades till they themselves are replaced.

What kind of men?  We desire biblically qualified men who have a passion to selflessly shepherd Christ’s flock.  We desire men of  giftedness who will be able to feed the flock.  We desire men of confessional conviction. That means, for us, men who embrace the truths of historic confessional Christianity with firmness, conviction, knowledge and joy.   Men who embrace Baptist Covenant Theology.  Men who love the Lord’s Day and are not ashamed of its place in the Moral Law.  Men who believe in the centrality of the church and the commitment of members to its life together.   If our churches are to remain committed not only to Orthodox and Reformed Christianity but to 1689 Confessionalism then we must do at least three things.

The first we must do is pray that the Lord of the Harvest will raise up laborers (Matt 9:38).  As one has well said, only  the God who made the world can make a gospel minister.  Secondly we must invest in our youth.   We must lay bare afresh what we believe and why we believe it and pray that the Lord will instill in them a passion for these truths they have grown up with in a way that does not lead to pride, judgmentalism towards brethren who differ, and isolation.  We can and must be a people of narrow convictions and broad affections and associations.  Thirdly we must act.  Encourage young men to consider the ministry.  Pastors need to look for men to mentor and invest time and resources in.  Look to give younger men opportunities for ministry—prison ministries, nursing homes, homeless shelters, youth gatherings, Sunday School classes, and eventually morning or evening worship services.  Lead the people of God in prayer for the rising generation with hope that God will own and bless His truth in them till His Son returns in glory.

Seriously Thankful

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  No, I’m not talking about Christmas…I’m talking about Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving, as we know it today, began to take shape in 1863 with a decree by President Lincoln.  It came to it’s current placement in our nations calendar in November of 1941 on the precipice of the Second World War. Thanksgiving as a national holiday was birthed in the midst of hardship, poverty, war, strife, and division.  Every exhortation in God’s Word is set against the reality of the Fall and the curse.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, amidst a flurry of exhortations, one them stands out above all others.  In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  This is God’s will.  That may seem redundant…after all, it’s in the Bible and it’s in the form of a present active imperative–a clear command.  By telling us that this is God’s will for those in union with Jesus, Paul is, as it were, underscoring, highlighting, italicizing, putting in caps this particular command. Don’t miss this!  it’s God’s will for you to always be thankful.  Doing God’s will is of eternal consequence.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 that only those who do the will of God will go to heaven.  Paul tells us in Romans 1 that among the many sins which merit the wrath of God is ingratitude.  Unbelief and ingratitude binds the souls in hell together.  But how can we be thankful at all times and for all things?  Are there not issues which grieve and disappoint us?  Of course.  The issue is that what God has done for us in Jesus is so much better that it always tips the scales towards gratitude.  No matter how well things are going in your estimation now, if you are in Christ you have reason to be thankful.


On the Lord’s Day of September 15, 1991 seven women and five men covenanted together to form the initial membership of the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville. Under the blessing of God, ten of that number continue together week by week in fellowship. One of the twelve is now a part of a confessional church in New York. Sadly the twelth has gone back to the world. In recent days I have reflected upon the goodness of God in having so many walk together for so long.
At least four things come to mind to highlight the goodness of God to us.
The first token of God’s goodness is that we are still alive. Though some have known significant illnesses and have undergone surgeries, we bless God for keeping us in the land of the living.
The second issue is that we have, by the power of the Holy Spirit, kept our integrity. We do not need to look at the signatures of our covenant with shame and sorrow considering how this or that one has ruined their testimony or brought shame to the Lord Jesus.
The third issue of reflection is that all the initial membership has held fast to our confessional faith. I know that full subscription to the Confession is not a matter of eternity, but it has been a joy to see all the founding members (save one) continue to love our Reformed and historic Baptist faith.
Finally, I have been struck that we all still love one another. Living together over two decades means that we have often sinned against one another. We have provoked one another (and not always to love and good works!). There have been many opportunities to seek and grant forgiveness.
All these things are needed if our churches are to survive and thrive. We must hold fast to Christ, hold fast to the truth, and we must bear with one another. In a few more years one or other will be the first to pass into glory. It is my hope and trust that only death or the coming of Christ will sever these precious bonds.


Note:  This is a repost from Aug, 2011

If you live long enough and interact with enough people you will eventually be in the place of ministering to those who are suffering.  Nothing will prove the body of Christ more effective nor bring about greater disappointment than how the body reacts to such members.

This past summer I began a ministry through the book of  Job.   Job is the quintessential book on suffering.  The majority of the book deals with the discussions between Job and his three friends.  The initial compassion of Job’s friends is truly commendable.   They first of all desire to be with Job.  They secondly desire to enter into his sorrows and to mingle their tears with his.  They thirdly determine to comfort Job.  They desire that truth will be a blotter to Job’s tears.  In these desires they do well.  Where they derail is in their making dogmatic assertions without all the evidence.  In dealing with this section my mind ran to some counsel I offered years ago to aiding others in dealing with grief.  This was born out of  being on the receiving end of  those who sought to minister to me and my wife in the loss of a child.   The counsel I gave then involved having swift feet to come to be in the presence of those who are grieving.    Secondly to have long arms to embrace the one who is grieving.  Thirdly to have busy hands to meet the practical needs of the one who is grieving.  Fourthly to have bent knees to interceed for the one who is grieving.   Fifthly to have large ears to listen to the one who is grieving.  Finally to have a small and well guarded mouth to speak to the one who is grieving.  The temptation to ‘explain’ what God is doing and to quickly end the pain of the suffering can cause us to derail as quickly as Job’s well intentioned friends did.  May God help us to fulfill the true meaning of the body of Christ unto the end that when one member suffers all the members suffer with him.

Superheroes In the Pew

If you were to ask the average Christian to speak of their spiritual heroes it would be common for them to bring forth the names of great pastors, preachers, and missionaries who have served faithfully and well in the Kingdom in the past or present. They buy the books, listen to the sermons, follow the tweets, and read the biographies of these esteemed men and women. I want to tell you bit about some of my heroes. Many of them have never preached and certainly have not written popular books or blogs. They have never spoken at conferences. With the exception of a few dozen fellow churchmen, they are unknown in the wider Christian world. My heroes consists by and large of the men and women of my church. They are the faithful plodders of God’s Kingdom. They love the worship of God and the ministry of His Word. They work long hours in their spheres of labor, in the home and out of the home and yet make it a priority to come to services of worship and the times of prayer. They have full schedules, are often weary and yet they come, not to be served, but, like their Master, to serve. Some of my heroes face crippling diseases and have battled through crushingly dark providences. I’ve seen them lose their jobs, lose their children, and their spouses. I’ve seen the cost they pay to simply follow Christ. I’ve seen men and women persevere when loved ones turn back to the world. I’ve seen them bear with the faults and sins of others. Their elders have at times disappointed them, their brothers and sisters have let them down. Yet, they show a love that covers a multitude of sins. They exemplify what it means to bear with one another and to bear one another’s burdens. Unlike the heroes of the church or the heroes of our culture, they do not preach, they do not travel to foreign lands, they are not strange visitors from another planet with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal man, they do not cling to walls or fly through the sky. But they are my heroes, and one day, the King of Kings will say to them before the whole world, Well done!

Here Comes The Groom! (The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’s Husband)



This is the time of year for weddings.  I have been to two over the past few weeks.  The highpoint of the wedding is always when the bride is first spotted in all her glory.   As a pastor I am often privileged to perform the weddings and to see the beautiful bride presented to her husband up close and personal.   I love to watch his face as his beloved is placed upon his arm by her father.    After one of these recent weddings I posed a question to some of the folks around the table at the reception.  The question was, “What will be  the primary difference between the last wedding and this wedding?”   The answer?  The focus on this wedding is on the Bride and the focus of the last wedding will on the Groom.   I was thinking about this in conjunction with recent headlines about the so called ‘Gospel of Jesus’ Wife’.  Did you read about this?   Apparently some scrap of papyrus was found on the bottom of some guys  sandal where Jesus is said to speak about his ‘wife’.  This is not the first time that the press has jumped on the supposed scandal that Jesus had a wife.  Jesus was married!   My reaction?   Of course Jesus has a wife!  The Bible talks about it plenty!  He came for his wife!  He laid down his life for his wife!  He loves his wife indescribably!   He is going to present His wife to his Father on the last day as a glorious bride!  Nothing hidden, nothing scandalous, nothing secret, all open,  all wonderful.  But on that Day the focus will not be on the beauty of the Bride (though she will never have been so beautiful!) but on the beauty of the Husband. The eyes of all will upon Him.  He will be adored, He will be the object of song and praise.  He is  altogether lovely, all together perfect.  The Bride will not eye her garment, but her dear Bridegroom’s face, she will not gaze at glory but on her King of grace, not at the crown He gives, but on His pierced hand. He will be all the glory of that wedding day.   The good news is not so much that Jesus has a wife, but that His wife has a husband!

Anticipation – Reformation21 Blog

Anticipation – Reformation21 Blog.