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Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Lord's Day Article in the BF&M

The Baptist Faith & Message, which is a commonly used statement of faith for Southern Baptist churches and is the official statement of faith for Convention entities, is a document of core Christian doctrine. The Baptist Faith & Message, first adopted in 1925 by Southern Baptists, used the New Hampshire Confession of Faith as a working document from which to craft the new statement of faith.

The Baptist Faith & Message has been revised two times, one in 1963 and again in 2000 with additional amendments being added infrequently. One particular change made from the 1963 BF&M and adopted in the BF&M 2000 occurs in the article addressing the Lord's Day. Here is the article on the Lord's Day as it appears in both the BF&M 1925 and 1963:

The first day of the week is the Lord's day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should be employed in exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private, and by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, works of necessity and mercy only excepted.

Here is how the article is stated in the BF&M 2000:

The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The main changes in the document are the removal of the statement, "refraining from worldly amusements," and the addition of this statement, "Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Christ."

Do you agree with the change? Or do you think the change has weakened the article?

I believe in light of Paul's teaching in Colossians 2:16-17 and in Romans 14:1-12, the BF&M 2000 is more faithful to the biblical witness despite the fact that it really says less.

It would be good reading to find a tabletalk session of those on the BF&M committee who made the revision to this particular article.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Christian Witness from the Amish in Pennsylvania

Romans 12:14, "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them."
Matthew 5:44, "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you"
Matthew 6:14, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly father will also forgive you."
John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends."
Matthew 5:16, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

These are just some of the verses that come to mind after reading these various news reports about how the Amish community in Pennsylvania are responding to the killing of five young girls, and shooting of five others by Charles Roberts IV.

Here is a sampling of how this Amish community responded:
--Over half of those who attended the funeral of Charles Roberts IV were Amish. Read here.

--Within a few hours of the shooting, the Amish were extending forgiveness to the Roberts family and seeking to comfort them. Read here.

--And a remarkable story coming from inside the schoolhouse is the courage and sacrifice of at least two of the girls. 13 year old Marian Fisher in an apparent attempt to save the other girls requested that Roberts shoot her first. He did, and she died from the gunshot. Marian's younger sister, Barbie, then requested that she be shot next. She lived. Read here.

Mark Overstreet first pointed out these stories, you can find his posts here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Workings of a Sovereign God

"I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, (Philippians 1:12)"

God often works in ways we would not normally choose. God also moves in ways which might seem at first to be contrary to his major goals. For example, I am sure Paul would rather not have been in prison for a number of years, both in Caesarea and Rome. Paul's imprisonment also would seem to be an impediment to the cause of the gospel for Paul was a major force in the spread of Christianity during the Apostolic Era.

Yet, God's word reveals to us that Paul's imprisonment was instrumental for the advance of the gospel. The chains which Paul was bound brought Paul together with Roman Imperial Guards. As a result of this necessary condition, the gospel spread throughout the Imperial Guard. And not only this, but Paul's imprisonment emboldened the Christians in Rome to preach the gospel without fear.

Furthermore, when Jesus called Paul to himself, he commissioned him to preach to the Jews, the Gentiles, and kings (Acts 9:15). It was during his imprisonment that the Apostle heralded the gospel to kings.

Our limited vision inhibits us from seeing the larger workings of God. And while it sometimes appears that God is absent or not working all things for good to those who love him, we must trust that he is. We must walk not by sight, but by faith.

One of my favorite stories of God's providence is the story of John Bunyan's imprisonment. Bunyan was jailed for illegally preaching the gospel. He could have left the prison at any time had he agreed not to preach the gospel. He refused to quit. He preached in the prison to the extent, people were coming to here him while he would preach from the prison courtyard (both prisoners and freemen). Eventually he was banished a central location where his contact was limited. It was here that God desired to take Bunyan, as he wrote the gospel in an allegorical story which we know as The Pilgrim's Progress. Through this writing, Bunyan would preach the gospel to far more people than he could have through any other method.

We should strive to see the working of a Sovereign God in our own lives even in times of discomfort and trial. This is the hope we have as Christians. God is working at the same time to bring glory to his name and for the good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Nature of Deception

Here are two quotes concerning the deceptive nature of wickedness. One is modern. One is ancient.

"Wolves don’t come with business cards that say 'Wolf.' They dress up like sheep, talk like sheep, and are published by sheep publishers."
Mark Dever

"Error never shows itself in its naked reality, in order not to be discovered. On the contrary, it dresses elegantly, so that the unwary may be led to believe that it is more truthful than truth itself."
Irenaeus of Lyons