Sunday, April 23, 2006

Cave life?

Unless you've been living in a cave somewhere in the middle of... Well, you know how the rest of that goes. Many times we hear that catchy little cliché from someone, who is obviously more in the know than you are, and they're telling you about all the things you've been missing, just like you've been living in a cave. But, just to set the record straight, sometimes, cave life might not be so bad.

Not so bad! Are you kidding?

Looking in scripture, I find that there are only two possible reasons why someone might be in a cave. The first reason, as in the case of Sarah, or Abraham, or even Lazarus, you might be in the cave because you're dead. In other words, you have no life, and no potential for growth, and if that is the case, it could be bad. However, the other possibility is that you're like Lot, or David, or one of the prophets. You're in a cave, sheltered in other words, because you're weak, and the Lord is protecting you. There's a battle going on outside, and for the short term, God has you sheltered in a cave, and there you'll stay, until the time is right, and the Lord calls you out, fully rested and fully equipped; ready to do battle.

So who could benefit from the shelter of the cave?

Children! They're weak, and they need protecting; they are not ready to face the wiles of the devil alone. They need to be sheltered; they need the protection of the Lord's cave. You see, unless you've been living in a cave somewhere in the middle of, well... somewhere, you would know that there's a war going on. No, I'm not talking about the war on terror, or the war in Iraq or even the war over the border. I'm talking about the war for the hearts and minds of our children; our future spiritual and political leaders. It's a war that's waged day in and day out through the public school systems in this country. While we're busy teaching our children the ways of God, the enemy is teaching them the ways of the world. They are constantly being bombarded with mixed signals; alternate lifestyles, evolutionary ideas and humanistic solutions to their every day problems, and most of them are not equipped to handle it. They are being molded into the image of the world, and not in the image of Christ, and if you think you can counter this with a couple of hours of Sunday School and church a week and maybe a Bible story at bed time, then you're only fooling yourself. We have to stop this casual approach to training our children and make a deliberately Christian effort to train them up in the way they should go. God's way!

So what can we do? How can we make a difference in the lives of our children? Well, as church leaders, we can encourage parents to become directly involved in the education process. Help them to see the urgency of the situation and encourage them to take drastic measures; measures like home school, church school, or private Christian school. Rally the congregational troops and get them excited about Christian educational alternatives that really glorify God! I'm sorry; public schools just cannot do that. It is against the law! We also need to help parents find the resources they need to actively train their children in the ways of the Lord. Solid Bible based resources!

Yeah, there are a lot of things we can begin to do that will help, and some will be better than others. But one thing is for sure, if we do nothing, like the Israelites in Judges chapter 2, we just might lose the next generation. To quote George Barna: "The enemy has a plan for your children - do you?" Let's start making plans today, and then put them into action!

(I wrote this about a year ago, and found it, touched it up and thought it was worth posting.)

Grace & Peace!
Dave Scarbrough

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A nugget of gold while panning in the river Luke!

As I was studying through chapter 24 of the book of Luke, I noticed something that I don’t believe I’ve ever noticed before…

What is it that causes the Christian’s heart to burn - is it entertainment, a seeker friendly, fun filled service, great story telling, or the exposition of God’s Word?

You may be familiar with the details of a visit that our risen Lord made to a couple of disciples on the Emmaus road. It is found in Luke chapter 24, verses 13 through 35. This is actually the only record we have of this visit. Mark does briefly mention this in his gospel account, but does not give us any details. Dr. Luke on the other hand, goes into great detail. His account goes something like this:

There are two disciples traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a walk of about seven and a half miles. One was named Cleopas, the other was not named. As they walked along, discussing the recent events, Jesus Himself came and walked with them, but for some reason, He did not allow them to recognize who He was. When He came close to them, He asked, what are you talking about and why do you look so sad? They were amazed that someone could ask such a question. Apparently they assumed that everyone that was anywhere near Jerusalem would have heard of the circumstances surrounding Christ’s death. Cleopas began to explain to this stranger all the facts about the man Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus listened. Cleopas rambled on about all the things that he knew. He had fact after fact, but still lacked understanding. Finally, after he finished, Jesus spoke. He said; are you guys so foolish, and lacking in the faith that you cannot believe what was written in the scriptures! This was the first bit of hidden treasure for me. Instead of opening their eyes by showing them His scars, or by telling them plainly who He was, He simply “expounded” the scriptures. Verse 27 says “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” I can imagine at this point, that the journey began to speed up a bit. The disciples, listening intently, likely lost track of time, and all of a sudden, there they were at the end of their trek. So Christ acted like He was going on further, but that simply wouldn’t do. These men had been fed a diet of biblical proportions! They were feasting and still wanted more. So Christ came in with them and broke bread. Immediately, their eyes were opened, and He vanished out of their site. Then comes the second piece of buried treasure, verse 32 says “And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?”

Preacher… what is it that your people are hungry for these days? Do their hearts burn for entertainment? Do they desire seeker friendly, fun filled events or short but entertaining stories? Or do they desire the sincere milk of the Word? If they are truly disciples of the risen Lord, then feed them something that will make their heart burn, expound the scriptures!

He is risen indeed!

Soli Deo Gloria,
Dave Scarbrough

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Where have all the elect gone?

In a recent issue of SBC Life, which is a mainstream Southern Baptist newspaper, I read an article by Dr. Malcolm B. Yarnell of Southwestern Baptist Seminary entitled “The TULIP of Calvinism.” As I read the article, I was once again reminded of how important sound exegesis is in preaching, teaching and even in scholarly writing. The article began, with this statement: “The following is a summary of the "TULIP" of classic Calvinism, set against the backdrop of its origins and compared to the Baptist Faith and Message, with the full recognition that Scripture is the final authority on all beliefs and doctrinal systems.” With an introduction like this, I felt sure that Dr. Yarnell was about to give us a fair treatment of the Doctrines of Grace! However, as I began to read, I was quickly convinced otherwise. For what I found instead, was a cleverly crafted attack against the beliefs of historic Southern Baptists.

One of the first things I noticed was that with every point, Dr. Yarnell built a “Calvinistic” sounding straw-man that he could easily tear down. He did this by subtly transitioning each point of classical Calvinism into one with a Hyper-Calvinistic point of view. For those with little or no understanding of what these historical doctrines actually teach, this would be very hard to spot. But for many, this should be immediately obvious. For example, under the point of unconditional election, he begins with a true statement regarding the view of classical Calvinism. He stated that “Followers of Calvin” - though they were not actually followers of Calvin, but followers of Christ - “argued that God decreed from eternity to elect some to salvation.” This is a true statement. You can easily turn to one of many passages of Scripture to see that this is so: 2nd Timothy 1:8-9, Ephesians 1:3-14, 1st Peter 1:1-2 and many others. He then proceeded to say that “Subsequent followers posited a more extreme view” and then describes a heretical Hyper-Calvinistic view of the doctrine of election called double-predestination. The view that he describes is a false view that is overwhelmingly rejected by those of us who hold to the doctrines of grace as described by classical Calvinism. Then following this transition, he proceeds to tear down his readymade straw-man with a comment about how “Most Southern Baptists would counter” with a different opinion. Now it was my understanding that Dr. Yarnell’s objective was to compare the views of classical Calvinism with those held by Southern Baptists as described in the Baptist Faith and Message. However, what he does in each case is compare the views of Hyper-Calvinism to the views of a specific group of Southern Baptists, whose doctrine, while similar in some ways to those of historic Southern Baptists, are much more in line with the views of the Free-Will Baptist church. To say that this is a little misleading would be an understatement.

This is simply very poor scholarship. Dr. Yarnell, while he claims to speak for “Most Southern Baptists,” falls very short of doing so. To support his case, that his is the historic perspective, he quotes selected portions of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. In this case he states that “The Baptist Faith and Message, in simple accord with Scripture, states: "Election is the gracious purpose of God" which "is consistent with the free agency of man."” And while these words are actually found in the current version of the BFAM, Dr. Yarnell fails to mention that he strategically left out several very important words that appear in between those that he sited. The actual text that appears in the 2000 BFAM states that: “Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.” This is in no way contradictory to the original, “true,” statement regarding the classical view of Calvinism; “God decreed from eternity to elect some to salvation.” On the contrary, The 2000 BFAM affirms that God is the one that does the electing, and that the result of Him doing so is the regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification of the sinner. It clearly does not say that He elects “all sinners” because doing so would promote the heretical view of universalism.

In another effort to lend credibility to his position, Dr Yarnell mentions the names of E.Y. Mullins, Herschel Hobbs, and Adrian Rogers. While these three men were great scholars in many respects, each of them seemed to have a specific and well documented weakness when it came to the doctrine of election. For example, Dr. Yarnell states that “Hobbs decried the "error that election relates to certain individuals, with some destined to salvation and others to damnation."” This is a quote from a book by Mr. Hobbs entitled “Fundamentals of our Faith”. This quote is taken from page 90 where Mr. Hobbs is stating some of the “errors regarding the doctrine of election.” The third one in a list of four errors is the one mentioned above. As his proof text, Mr. Hobbs suggests John 3:16 and Revelation 22:17, neither of which are verses specifically dealing with the doctrine of election. Very poor exegesis! Again, to think that this is an exhaustive list of prominent Southern Baptists that reject the doctrine of election is very misleading. He failed to mention names like J. P. Boyce, one of the founders and the first president of Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky who stated in his Abstract of Principles that “Election is God's eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life-not because of foreseen merit in them, but of His mere mercy in Christ-in consequence of which choice they are called, justified and glorified.” And while this one Southern Baptist founder should be enough, we could easily name many, many more: John L. Dagg, P.H. Mell, Basil Manly Sr., B.H. Carroll, or even the current president of Southern Seminary R. Albert Mohler Jr., just to name a few.

So, while this article has a good title, and an enticing introduction, the content is very misleading. It is a very good example of how to not “exegete the text!” However, I will say this about SBC Life; in the same issue, they also ran a very good article dealing with the same subject by Dr. Daniel L. Akin of Southeastern Baptist Seminary. It is worth reading!

Below are links to both of these articles:

The TULIP of Calvinism In Light of History and the Baptist Faith and Message by Malcolm B. Yarnell III, Ph.D.:

Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility How Should Southern Baptists Respond to the Issue of Calvinism? by Daniel L. Akin, Ph.D. :

Soli Deo Gloria,
Dave Scarbrough

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!

"Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision." - Joel 3:14 (KJV)

How many times have you heard a sermon preached on this passage? A pastor offers up this text or one similar to it and explains - "this is where you are today." In this text for example, the word decision is found, and the man in the pulpit exclaims that "there is a decision to be made!" You must choose! Do you want to accept the gift of salvation that Christ has waiting for you? Or will you reject Him, damning yourself to everlasting judgment in the flames of Hell!

While this does "preach", and will likely generate a response or two from the multitudes wishing to escape judgment... is it really an accurate presentation of what the text really means?

I was reminded again this week of how often we hear superficial preaching coming from our pulpits. A pastor used this exact verse as his sermon text during a revival service that I attended. And while this text did come from the Scripture, I do not think the message that went along with it was totally accurate. So with that as my spring board into the world of blogging - pastor, let me challenge you today to exegete the text! So what exactly is Exegesis? The word exegesis simply means "to draw the meaning out" of a given text. This is the opposite of eisegesis, which means to read one's own interpretation into a given text. This is very often what happens to a pastor whose habit is to preach topically. He first comes up with his topic, and then goes in search of a scripture that contains supporting words or ideas. In the case of the scripture above, a pastor might want to preach on making a decision for Christ, so he searches his favorite concordance or Bible software program for words that will support his message. He finds Joel 3:14, and reads into the text the idea that this is encouragement for an individual to make a decision for Christ. When in contrast, what is really happening is that the Lord is making a decision or judgment against all those in the valley. They are His enemies, and the enemies of His people, and will be judged accordingly. Is this the same thing? Is it still ok to use the text to support your topic? Maybe you should ask yourself another question; are those true converts if they are converted with a word that didn't come from God? What does God's Word say? "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." - Romans 10:17

Pastor, let me encourage you today - exegete the text! Go to scripture first, and let it do the speaking for you. This doesn't mean that you can never preach on a "topic," but when you do, make sure that it is properly interpreted. Make sure that your supporting scripture, actually supports your topic.

In this day of superficial preaching, our churches (I'm a Southern Baptist) are filled with false converts. Those who believe they have been taught the clear un-edited Word of God. Yet, they quickly fall away, or constantly have to make a new "decision"! Why, because preachers have not been faithful with the Word.

Brothers, let us commit from this day forward, to exegetical preaching! Preaching that does not show how clever we are at putting together sermons, but preaching that honors the God of the Universe!

Soli Deo Gloria,
Dave Scarbrough