Doctrine Considered Important by Our Forefathers

It is the time of year when Baptist associations and state conventions are meeting to discuss the matters of the group.  I am preparing to attend the Kentucky Baptist Convention in about a week from now. Lots of reports will be read, mostly consisting of numbers and dollars. There will be a few sermons, or at least one, during the meetings.  But one thing will most probably be missing — serious theological discussion.  Theology has become almost an antiquated idea in far too many Baptist meetings.  It shows in the Biblical/theological illiteracy that is vast in our denomination, both among laypeople and pastors.

Several years ago I was doing research in Baptist associations in Georgia and Alabama. One of the things that struck me was the annual “Circular Letter.”  I have many of these “Circular Letters” in my files that reflect the commitment to theology that our forefathers held to be so important.  Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of these letters here.

The following letter was found in the minutes of the Stone Mountain Baptist Association, in Stone Mountain, GA, in 1852.

I.  That our churches ought to feel a deeper interest in, and higher observance of, the fundamental doctrines of the Bible.

1.   We argue the necessity of impressing these doctrines upon the mind from the fact that they promote good religion.

“Make the tree good, and his fruit will be good.” To obtain the purest water, we must repair the fountain. To attain an eminent degree of piety, ”drink of the fountain of the water of life freely.” “In that day, there shall be a fountain opened in the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin, and for uncleanness.” The atonement of Christ, with special regard to the redemption of His people, is first, last, and midst, in the great and glorious economy of Grace. Like the circle of the sun, it comprehends all the attributes of God’s gifts to His children. The death of Jesus Christ, for us His enemies, embraces the most unmistakable proof of God’s electing love; His preordination of obedient, true believers, to “eternal life.” “As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed.” The assurance of an “eternal weight of glory,” to all that love God and keep His commandments, is uttered and continued by the Lord Jesus, when He, in His unspeakable agony and awful death, exclaims, “It is finished.” “The ceremonial law is finished; the rigorous, fearful, civil polity of the Jews is finished; the requisition of the moral code is finished; my suffering life is finished; my shameful, agonizing death is accomplished; Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. If while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

2.  As the atonement of Christ is identified with the entire system of salvation, and as it corresponds with all those primary doctrines which it is our interest and duty to believe and practice, it is therefore necessary that these doctrines be preached and advocated, both in the pulpit and elsewhere, without fear of contradiction, and with unwavering confidence that God will sanctify them to His chosen people. Is the covenant of redemption true to the redemption of all that believe? Is election God’s choice from eternity of all that obey Him? Is predestination to holiness of heart and life a Bible doctrine? Is salvation by grace through the blood of Christ the heritage of God’s elect? Shall they persevere in pious living through the faithfulness of God? Do “all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to His purpose?” Cannot Baptists answer these questions affirmatively? Surely. Then why neglect their propagation? Does the proclamation of truth injure the people of God ? Certainly not. When a man speaks a deliberate falsehood or is angry at the declaration of truth, or when he conceals a truth by using misleading language in any matter whatever, avoid him. Arminianism and Campbellism are subtly intending our dismemberment. Let us arise in the energy of the Holy Ghost, and “declare all the counsel of God, and contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints.”

3.   The sovereignty of God is perpetuated and confessed in “the churches of the saints.” “God sitteth on the throne of His holiness. The Lord Omnipotent, reigneth. He shall reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet; the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” His sovereign, immutable decree produces all that is good for His church; and His permissive will tolerates moral evil. He “worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” In supreme power, and “dreadful majesty” He punishes the wicked. Executing the penalty of death upon the finally impenitent; He makes subservient to our benefit all the ills of life. Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain? The penitent thief He brings to Paradise, but the dying persecuted robber He commits to eternal wrath. “Righteousness, Justice, and Judgment are the habitation of His throne.” It belongs to His absolute will, it is the prerogative of the Great Supreme to welcome the saints to glory, and consign the wicked to unquenchable fire. “Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; Depart, ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” His law of benevolence prepared Heaven for the righteous before they were born, from the foundation of the world. His penal law prepared Hell for the devil and his angels. “In my Father’s house are many mansions. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am. Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.” Thus, we give glory to God in the highest, thus God extends peace on earth, good will toward men. Alleluia! The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth! Let the earth rejoice. Let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.

4.  In penetrating the mysteries of Divine Providence and Grace, we must recollect that to learn these doctrines, faith, prayer, and patience are indispensably necessary. Faith must receive the word of God as it is; prayer will unfold the oracles of truth to the humble inquirer;–and patience will tarry in the temple until the interpretation is audibly spoken by the Holy Spirit: “Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye may inherit the promise. He shall take the things which are mine, and shall shew them unto you.”

Christians are not to learn the doctrines of grace in a day, or a year, “As newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” What an immense blessing is it thus to have all the gifts of the immortal mind in exercise! It is stated that “an ancient mathematician, who had been working a problem for many weeks, when he had found the solution, ran out of his study, and through the streets of Athens crying–“I have found it–I have found it!” And the disciples of the Lord Jesus, who is ever working out the vast problem of man’s redemption, will find an answer to his devout inquiries, “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” Therefore, “exercise thyself rather unto godliness.” Beloved brethren, descend “into the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Be exercised in exploring the infinite mind of God. Make new discoveries of the Divine perfections. “But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord.”

II.  These doctrines are the safeguard of the Body of Christ. “He is made all things to the Church that in all things He might have the preeminence. No other foundation can any man lay, than that is laid: which is Christ Jesus. Salvation will God appoint, for walls and bulwarks. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her. Yea, and all the promises of God, in Him are yea, and in Him amen, unto the glory of God by us.”

To preserve the church of Christ from wicked encroachment, the citadel must be well defended and secured: “His place of defense shall be the munition of rocks.” Inherent strength is comprised and promoted within these enclosures. “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people, from henceforth, even forever.” The sun in his orbit, burns and shines without hazard from any of his attendant planets. So be the Church of the adorable Redeemer. Let her “be as a city set on a hill which cannot be hid.” Let her be “the light of the world.” Illuminated by the Son of Righteousness, she is in her celestial training and towering majesty, the peerless queen of her Lord and King; subservient to no earthly pollution, or defilement from without, but guarded and honored by the power and intelligence of her Almighty and All-Wise Redeemer, she stands replete in the love of God, and beauty of salvation. “Upon His right hand did stand the Queen, in gold of Ophir.”

III.  The visibility of the Church of Christ, by the inculcation and exhibition of these doctrines is better understood. “Ye are not of the world.” If the Church can be distinguished apart from the world in her principles taken from the Bible, and impressed by the spirit of God, she will evince, first, by her vitality, and secondly, in her sober, sincere and godly intercourse, that she alone is “the heavenly Jerusalem,” that in her alone are the dawn and light and glory of the precious Saviour’s image on earth. Grace “without money and without price” is free grace; it is unmerited, therefore it must be and will be illustrated in Christian character, and exemplified in Christian conduct.

IV. To do these things, the power is given us. “All power in heaven and earth is mine, and to whomsoever I will, I give it,” says our Immanuel, “which name, being interpreted, is God with us.”

1.   In the government of the Church, the distinctiveness of these doctrines must be quietly and affectionately advocated and enforced. We require a good moral character of every applicant for church membership. But we need no reference to a man’s previous life. If God has converted, has shed abroad His love in his heart, this contains all the elements of moral character. Ananias might not object to the baptism of Saul. His previous persecutions of God’s children were no barrier to his immersion, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Caution, however, in the reception of applicants for immersion should be persistently and intelligently observed. And in the admission by letter of Baptists from a distance, there should be the most scrupulous adherence of moral character. A church letter, written sometimes in full fellowship, is but a transcript of hypocrisy and base imposition. Never admit to church membership any person on the merit expressed in his letter, unless his commendation is borne out in Christian conduct. Object to him and reject at once his letter of recommendation, if he is not in action what his letter signifies.

Reclaim, as speedily as possible, backsliding Christians. Excommunicate incorrigible members. Never mind their great age. The hoary-headed sinner is the most ingenious contriver of mischief. Have no lenience for the opulent hypocrite. “Wealth maketh many (mischievous) friends.” “Holiness becometh God’s house.”

2.   In the good character of Jesus Christ’s preacher, and deacons, these truths must be sanctioned and sanctified.

Aaron and the Levites (deputy priests) were irreproachable. Paul exercised himself “daily, to have a good conscience void of offense toward God and toward men.” He addressed the deacons of Philippi with profound regard and unwavering confidence; and placed them second in the scale of pious distinction and manifest utility, in the Philippian church. From the deaconship of Stephen, he rose to the ministration of the Gospel, and was crowned with the earliest honors of the martyrdom of the New Testament. “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.”

3.   The ordinances of God’s house will be diligently and devoutly attended to. “Faith without works is dead.” Where there are no Christian works, there is no Christian faith. Christian faith is lively, animating, productive. “I will show thee my faith by my works.” Strong faith has strong and powerful evidence in the love of God. “God is love. We love Him, because He first loved us.” Here is the motive power of heavenly ordinances. This is the great interpreter of Christian action and patient suffering. “The love of Christ constraineth us.” In the ordinances of preaching, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, prayer, exhortation and praise, “the King is held in the galleries.”

4.   In the secular support of Gospel Ministers, the fundamental teachings of the Scriptures are patronized and appreciated. Nor is it sufficient that brethren endorse these truths with their lips, whilst their hearts are far from them. Brethren in the Lord, do not censure us for our candor. Suffer this truth. Never, never were the people of God more in opposition to their own welfare; never, never did they reproach the Gospel of Christ, the doctrines of the Cross, more bitterly and cruelly than in withholding the support that is due to the Ministers of the Lord Jesus. “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.” The love of Christ is intercepted by the cheerless withholder of the Minister’s dues. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The Minister and his widowed wife, and orphanized children are blessed in receiving the laborer’s hire. But the church is more abundantly blessed in imparting cheerfully what the minister is entitled to.

‘Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts; if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

-David Cook, Moderator
Stone Mountain Baptist Association
Stone Mountain, Georgia

When Church is Mundane & Truth is Not Central

Peter,_Paul_and_Mary_2006When I was in high school and college I loved the music of the folk group Peter, Paul & Mary.  I still think they had one of the purest sounds ever recorded.  While they didn’t share many of my political views they wrote and sang some incredible music.

One of my favorite songs by them was not one of their most popular.  It was simply entitled “Hymn.”  It spoke of institutional religion without any reality in faith.  It was sung from the perspective of a young boy as he went and observed the hypocrisy of ritualism without truth.  I have often wondered if it were not a song written before its time.  Because the lyrics speak volumes to the contemporary church, I’m afraid.   Below I will print the lyrics and you can hear Paul Stookey sing it HERE.

It certainly gives us pause to think:

Sunday morning, very bright, I read Your book by colored light
That came in through the pretty window picture.

I visited some houses where they said that You were living
And they talked a lot about You
And they spoke about Your giving.
The passed a basket with some envelopes;
I just had time to write a note
And all it said was “I believe in You.”

Passing conversations where they mentioned Your existence
And the fact that You had been replaced by Your assistants.
The discussion was theology,
And when they smiled and turned to me
All that I could say was “I believe in You.”

I visited Your house again on Christmas or Thanksgiving
And a balded man said You were dead,
But the house would go on living.
He recited poetry and as he saw me stand to leave
He shook his head and said I’d never find You.

My mother used to dress me up,
And while my dad was sleeping
We would walk down to Your house without speaking.

We must be certain that our churches are filled with truth and love, and be able to point them to the One who is not dead . . . but is alive!!!

A Christian Holiday to Celebrate — Oct 31

Luther & 95 Theses492 years ago this Saturday (October 31) was a day that changed the course of the church for all time. On that day Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg Chapel. His desire was to begin a debate about abuses that he saw by the Papacy and the church. He had no intention on beginning a new church or even a movement. He simply wanted to see the church “reformed” that is re-formed by God’s word and in the image of Christ.

While the abuses may not be the same as they were in Luther’s day, the church today has departed from the pure Gospel message in many ways. There are many abuses where the church has watered down, distorted, and simply denied the Gospel. We have been content to let “little” errors enter without challenge thinking that a little error won’t do much harm. But it has and today the church is in as great a need of re-forming as it was in Luther’s day. What if you received a letter from your drinking water provider that said, “we have had a little problem with our water filtration system and some of the sewage from the treatment plant has gotten into the water supply. But the good news is that it is only 10% and 90% of your water is still pure.” You would be outraged. Yet, every day we allow the “sewage” of false teaching to enter into the church and think that it won’t hurt anything. How wrong we are.

Out of the Reformation came five “battle” cries. These expressed the basics of the Gospel for their day. They have not changed over the past 491 years . . . indeed over the past 2000 years . . . though we sometimes forget them or we let little errors push them aside. In 1998 as we dedicated a new campus of the church I pastored back then, we used these five “alones” (or Solas) for a dedication Bible Conference. Today we need to remember their importance as we remember the Reformation.

Sola Scripture — By Scripture Alone

It is through the Scriptures, the Bible, that God speaks today. The Bible is not just a book that somehow contains God’s word, but rather it is God’s Word! It is in His word, with the enlightenment and guidance of the Holy Spirit, that we find God’s will, His purposes and His requirements for our lives.

While we believe that denominational traditions and church history are important and should be known and studied, it is God’s Word, the Scriptures, where we find our ultimate and absolute authority.

2 Tim 3:16 -17 — All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Psalm 19:7 — The Lord of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

Solo Christo — By Christ Alone

We live in a day which cries for diversity and tolerance. Thus, when people hear a church or group claiming that there is “only one way” to a relationship with God they appear to be horrified. However, the Word of God is quite clear on this matter. Jesus Christ himself left very little doubt as to where salvation is to be found.

John 14:6 — Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.

Acts 4:12 — “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”

We believe and proclaim that there is no salvation, no relationship with God, apart from the person and work of Jesus Christ. His death was as a substitute and sacrifice taking away our sin and giving us His righteousness. In reality, He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He died in our place the death that we deserved.

Sola Gratia — By Grace Alone

Man is notorious for wanting to “do it for themselves” – no matter what the “it” is. The Gospel teaches us that in the matter of salvation and being right with God, there is absolutely nothing that man or woman can do for themselves. Man is in rebellion toward God and will never seek God according to Romans 3:

Romans 3:11 — THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;

If it were left up to man to “get saved” it would simply never happen. The good news is that God has determined to save a people for His glory. The Holy Spirit, in drawing men and women to Christ, demonstrates that salvation is totally of grace. It is only because of this grace that anyone will ever be saved.

John 6:44 — “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:37 — “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

Sola Fide — By Faith Alone

The core, or fundamental truth, of the Gospel is that justification, being made right with God, is not on the basis of works, that is, anything we have done, but rather by faith in Christ alone.

Eph 2:5-8 — even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (6)and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, (7) in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (8) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

Salvation does not involve being as good as you can be . . . obeying all the 10 Commandments . . . or living by the Golden Rule. Salvation comes by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

We acknowledge that when true faith is exercised in Christ there will be a change in life. New attitudes and actions follow faith in Christ. But this is the work of Christ in us, not our work for Him.

Soli Deo Gloria — To God Alone belongs the Glory

What does a person say when they have come to faith in Christ? The only proper response is “Thank you God!!” Too often men try and claim the glory, the credit, that belongs only to God. However, the Word of God clearly declares that God alone is worthy of worship, praise, and adoration.

Who should receive the glory for what we gain in this life? God should, because it is only by His grace that we have anything at all.

1 Corinthians 6:20 — For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

1 Peter 4:16 — but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.

Job 1:21 — And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

This is indeed a day of celebration . . . and also a day to call for a new reformation in the 21st century. It is time to see that these 5 solas are the foundation for the church to be formed in the image of Christ.  For too long now the church has taken on the “look” of the culture around it.  It is time to be counter cultural . . . to focus again on what God’s word says about salvation and proclaim it boldly.  Fads come and go . . . but the Truth of God abides forever!!

Five Stones -- Five Solas

Worship is What We Do . . . or should be!!

WorshipWorship is what we do when we gather together each Sunday.  We do that for a lot of reasons, not least of which is because God has called us to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  There are other times when we do other things.  We have times of fellowship and play together.  There are times when we get together to have some entertainment, such as the annual youth event, Blast from the Past.  But when we enter the sanctuary on Sunday we come with the focused  purpose of worship.  We sing, read God’s word, pray, and study God’s word; and not much else.  Again, that is by design.  Once we hear the call to worship (usually Scripture) at the beginning of the service until the benediction at the end, our focus is on God and His Being and truth.  You say, Bill, that’s a given, what else would a church do?

I ran across something in my study this week that was shocking to me, in that it could have been written last week.  It was written in the early 1900s by a man many of you have perhaps read, A. W. Tozer.  He said:

“The church that can’t worship must be entertained. And men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment.”

I am amazed at the churches I see across the nation that have become more entertainment centers that places of worship.  I wept when I saw that a former church that I poured over 10 years of my ministry into, feeding them on the word of God, had a “power team” in to “wow and dazzle” with their feats of breaking bricks and boards and tearing phone books in half.  I watched on TV last week a “Christian comedian” in the pulpit during the time set apart for worship. Was he funny? Yes.  Did he handle the Word of God seriously? Absolutely not!!  I talked with friends this week who were lamenting the fact that the church they have just left (they are moving to another state) now evaluates everything as to what is the “wow factor”, whether signs in the buildings or sermons.

Twenty-five years ago a young preacher in Chicago went door to door and surveyed his neighborhood as to why people didn’t go to church.  The number one answer:  I get bored.  Bored!?!  Then something is seriously wrong.  As I read the scriptures I never find boredom a reaction when coming into the presence of God.  Fear, trembling, weeping, amazement and awe, but never boredom!!

Perhaps, and I’m only speculating here, the problem is in where the focus is.  If we focus on meeting with the living God there will be no boredom, I don’t think.  May God keep us focused as we worship Him each week.  As the writer of Ecclesiastes states, “To every thing there is a time and purpose . . .”  Let’s never forget the purpose for which we gather each week.

So? Whom Do We Really Worship?

One of my major concerns about evangelical Christianity in the 21st Century is that worship is not that . . . at least not toward the proper object of worship, the True and Living God.  In many churches man is exalted, recognized, applauded, and congratulated, but God is less and less the main focus.  God’s word is not read all that much . . . prayers are brief . . . being silent before God (Psalm 46:10) is feared . . . songs don’t reflect doctrinal truth, but rather emotional syrupy sentimentality.   In other words man is catered to rather than being pointed to the Sovereign Creator and Redeemer.

This was brought to my mind when I read the following in a blog that I frequent.  The writer is recounting a recent vacation where he visited a local (I’m sad to say) Southern Baptist Church:

Away on vacation in North Carolina at the OBX last week. We attended worship at a Southern Baptist church. First they introduced all the visitors. Then they honored all the fathers. Then we sang happy birthday to all the birthdays. Then we sang Happy anniversary to all the anniversaries. Then the pastor called the kids up front and played with a ventriloquist doll, and the point was to come to VBS next week.

I wondered when we’d get to God, you know, worshipping God as part of a worship service?

My hopes were raised by the call to confess a Creed.

But the Creed was, and I am not kidding, the following.

I’m too anointed to be disappointed.
I’m too blessed to be depressed.
I’m too chosen to be frozen.
I’m too elected to be rejected.
And I’ve got more to shout about than to pout about in Jesus’ Name, AMEN.

I don’t think God showed in the service at all.

We had three choices on the Island, Catholic, Methodist, and Baptist.

We made the wrong choice……… (from The Boar’s Head Tavern)

The first part of this man’s statement describes much of what I observe as I visit churches around the SBC (and that is my demonination).  As for the creed?  I think I’ll stick with The Apostles Creed !!

A friend of mine, Tom Ascol, posed this question in the Founders Journal in 2004:

What if I had to choose between a liberal church that does not believe in the full authority of Scripture yet thinks highly enough of it to read it publicly in worship, and a fundamentalist church that loudly affirms Scripture’s inerrancy but feels no compulsion to read it or be governed by it in worship?

We will prove our belief about the Scriptures and about worship, more by what we do than what we say.  Our worship services should include multiple readings of God’s word.

We must remember that “worship” means focusing on some(One) who is worthy of great worth.  It is not us (Psalm 115:1 — Not to us O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory) but it is God, through Jesus Christ, that is to command our attention.

Let’s work hard to keep the focus as it should be . . . on the Sovereign Creator and Redeemer.  Gazing upon Him will change us into His image!!  Programs, and entertainment, and man-centered activity will not. Let’s keep that out of “worship” so that it will really be that!!

There Are Some Things I’ll Never Understand

truth-project-square

In our study at Grace Baptist of The Truth Project one of the clearest warnings that we see in the Scripture is not to be led astray by “the lie.” Perhaps the greatest struggle for the church, and for Christians, is to not be shaped by the world rather than shaped by Christ. Satan is so clever in convincing us that we need to look like the world, think like the world, and live like the world. But God has called us to be peculiar people — children of light in a world of darkness.

I am committed to the sanctity of human life . . . for the simple reason of the Imago Deo — all humans are created in the image of God. Thus it grieves me to see people who masquerade as Christians, even ministers of the gospel, who completely deny this truth and offer a “religious defense” to the taking of human life. Such is the case of the new president and dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA, “the Reverend Katherine Hancock Ragsdale”. Ragsdale has been serving as director of Political Research Associates, a left leaning lobby group. She also has served on the board of directors of The White House Project (a radical feminist organization), NARAL Pro-Choice America and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (both radical pro-abortion groups). She has been the vicar (read pastor) of St. David’s Episcopal Church since 1996.

Now you may ask, “what does that have to do with us, we are Baptists or Presbyterians or whatever.” I tell you all this to show you how deceptive Satan can be. And how far people who claim to be Christians can go from God’s word and truth. In 2007 Ragsdale preached a sermon in Birmingham, AL against the pro-life movement. You would expect her to defend abortion in the usual cases commonly used, i.e. in the cases of rape, incest, or the life of the mother. But she shows just how much she is committed to the pro-death philosophy that is captivating many in liberal mainline churches (if we can even call them that) today. Hear just three statements she makes in her “sermon”:

When a woman wants a child but can’t afford one because she hasn’t the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.

And when a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion – there is not a tragedy in sight — only blessing. The ability to enjoy God’s good gift of sexuality without compromising one’s education, life’s work, or ability to put to use God’s gifts and call is simply blessing.

These are the two things I want you, please, to remember – abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. (If you feel you need to read the complete sermon to see the context, just click HERE) (The “reverend” Ragsdale must have been getting some heat on her blog where she posts her sermons and she has removed the page with this sermon.  You can find the text however HERE)

Do you hear the “hiss” of the serpent? Calling the death, the intentional death of a baby, a blessing!! It sounds very much like the words of the Devil in the garden, “Did God say you would die? You surely won’t die, but you will be like Him.” The words of Isaiah 5:18-21 seem to be screaming at this generation — “Woe to those who drag iniquity with the chords of falsehood, and sin as if with cart ropes . . . woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness . . . woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!”

The reason we are spending so much time on The Truth Project is to protect us from slipping in areas just like this. Some will say this will never happen. But I have the feeling a generation or two ago many in the Episcopal Church said the same thing. Paul’s warning to us is worthy of hearing: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” (1 Cor 10:12). In other words, never say never. Unless we stay vigilant for the truth we are walking on dangerous ground.

Many Reasons to Pray for Iraq

Each day when I engage in my personal prayer time one of the things I remember to pray for is my nephew serving in the U.S. Army in Mosul, Iraq. Patrick is there serving his country and his life is put on the line each day. I find some comfort in knowing that he is equipped for the mission he is on, and he is surrounded by soldiers who are trained to protect each other. But mostly I trust in Christ to protect him in the middle
of battle . . . But it is comforting to know it is a battle that he is trained to engage in.

You can imagine that my attention is grabbed anytime I see Mosul mentioned in a news article or anything else. I was reading a friend’s website this week who is a Chaplain in the U.S. Air Force. His name is James Gaylon and his blog is 2 Worlds Collide. On his site he related the danger that Christians in Mosul are encountering while practicing their faith in Christ. I think you need to hear what he wrote:

church-of-the-holy-spirit-mosul-iraq(Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, Iraq)

“In December (2008) and January, over 3,000 Christian families fled from Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Mosul is currently “ground zero” for Christians in regard to persecution. The Iraqi government is either unable or unwilling to protect Christians in the city. it seems more likely that the government is unwilling since there is sympathy for radical Islamists among members of the Iraqi armed forces and police force. Christians who remain in Mosul risk certain death. Many Christ ians are being put to death by Islamic family members who are ashamed of a member within their own family being converted. Iraqi Christians face a nearly insurmountable challenge due to the number of pastors and church workers who have been murdered and targeted for murder by Islamists.

Nonetheless, Iraqi Christians are not praying for an end to the persecution. Rather, their prayer (and the prayer they are requesting) is that they might be faithful despite the oppression and to advance the work of the gospel. Please ask the Lord to strengthen the Christian families who remain in Iraq and that the Lord would use them to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Also pray for Christian leaders to be able to continue in the work of ministry in the face of ongoing persecution.”
It is easy for us to be caught up in the troubles of our daily lives and things like the economy, that we forget that we have brothers and sisters across this world that are really suffering for the sake of the gospel. Let’s remember to pray daily and diligently for those who belong to Christ and thus belong to “our” family through Him.