Monday, December 13, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Left to right: Ron Nickerson, Jason Disch, Frank Donald, Brenda Johnson, Phil Johnson, Rick Kuntz, Arnet Mathers, Greg Carter, Cornell Preda, Frankie Brownell, Steve Brownell, Shawn Brace
A few months ago, Pastor Greg Carter (who pastors the White Memorial Church in Portland, Maine) and I raised the point to our conference administrators that it would be wonderful if the pastors could get together to simply study the Word. Many times at our "workers' meetings," we discuss a lot of valuable things but hardly get a chance to open the Word for serious study. They kindly obliged and so we invited all of the pastors in the conference to join us for a voluntary two-day Bible Retreat in October.
With that being said, I wasn't sure if there would be much interest and I was hoping that we would get five or six to attend. But the response was overwhelming. Just about every pastor indicated they were interested in attending, but not all could attend, due to scheduling conflicts. About 15 pastors (out of the 30 or so full-time pastors) committed to it, but when it was all said and done, a few of the pastors had to bow-out last minute (due to last-minute conflicts) and we ended up with ten pastors and two spouses.
We studied the book of Galatians and our unpacking of this incredible book was truly amazing. We essentially went verse-by-verse and unpacked the Gospel from every inch of the epistle we could. The Spirit was poured out and there was great unity amongst us. This was not to say that we all agreed upon every jot and tittle, but there seemed to be a real desire to not only grapple with the Word in a profound way, but to have it change us.
Simply put, the experience far exceeded my expectations, though I was not really sure what exactly to expect to begin with. From a purely objective point of view, I'm not sure that many of us would have thought that 12 of us could sit in a small chapel (not more than 20 x 20 feet in size) and slowly and deliberately unpack a book for 16 hours without getting bored, annoyed, or frustrated. Not only did we accomplish this, but I got the feeling that many - if not most - of us could have done it for another 16 hours (especially since we only finished five of the six chapters).
Specifically as it relates to the book of Galatians, I would like to try to summarize what we discovered, and reflect upon what we all agreed on - as well as the few things we were not in complete agreement on. Some who attended may have a slightly different view of these things, so this is just one man's perspective.
Areas of Agreement
1. The Galatian problem was that they were reverting back to the old covenant way of salvation by their own efforts. Circumcision was not the problem, per se. Their problem was their motivation in getting circumcised (ie., trying to merit salvation and the favor of God).
2. A corollary to this problem was that the Galatians were taking the issue of circumcision and using it as a litmus test to determine who was really a part of God's people. They displayed a judgmental attitude towards others and "persecuted" them who were "born according to the Spirit" (4:29). We recognized this mentality is still alive and well within our churches, and even in our own thinking at times.
3. A lot of it boils down to control and pride. As human beings, we have this natural (and sinful) desire to control others and to control God. We want to be able to point to ourselves as contributing to our salvation.
4. Contrary to all this, Paul made it clear that there is absolutely nothing that human beings can do to earn, merit, or deserve salvation. It is completely a gift from God, purchased solely by the death of Christ.
6. Christ is 100% our righteousness. He places His righteousness upon us and, because of this, we stand pardoned and forgiven before God.
7. Thus, we experience justification by faith - which is a response of the heart (5:6). This heart-response is based upon an appreciation for God's initiative, sacrifice, and love. And such a response energizes our lives, pushing us forward to live by the Spirit.
8. This appreciation can only be accomplished as we dwell upon the cross, contemplating Christ and Him crucified.
9. Seventh-day Adventists have been blessed with a fuller understanding of the cross, because of our understanding of the nature of man (being naturally mortal) and the nature of hell. When we see Christ's tremendous struggle in Gethsemane, where He was becoming a "curse for us" (3:13) and experiencing the separating of His father from Himself, it gives us a much richer and deeper gratitude for just how far Christ went in redeeming us.
10. Christ has "redeemed" all of us (3:13), and the beautiful reality is that we have all been "crucified with Christ" (2:20). This was done without any request from us. Indeed, it was done even before we were born.
11. In order for Christ to have redeemed us, it was necessary for Him to come to the very point where we were/are, and thus He was "born of a woman, born under the law" (4:4-5). Thus, He took upon Himself our humanity it its weakened condition. This means that He has so closely identified with us that we can draw close to Him, recognizing that He has a heart of compassion for us.
12. In taking upon Himself our humanity in its weakened condition, Christ still retained His divine nature and His will was ever connected to His Father, even from birth. Thus, the human and divine natures were connected, and this can be our experience if we are born again and live by the Spirit.
13. God desires for all of us to be delivered from "the present evil age," (1:4) and to experience true freedom and liberty. He wants us to live by the Spirit.
14. When we live by the Spirit, we do not fulfill the "lusts of the flesh," (5:16) and the fruit of the Spirit is evident in our lives.
15. God wants us to live in a new covenant experience rather than an old covenant experience (4:21-31). These two experiences have always been present and are not speaking of the historical periods that the Bible also identifies (the Old and New Testament).
16. Someone who is living in a new covenant experience is taking God at His word, believing His promises, and cooperating with Him. Someone who is living in an old covenant experience is making promises to God and trying to "help" Him fulfill what He has promised. The actions and behavior of both the old covenant and new covenant experiences may be the same; the difference is the motivation of the heart.
17. As a part of the salvation process, God gives us grace to overcome sin and enjoy a victorious life.
18. Recognizing all these realities extinguishes human pride and results in man, laying his glory in the dust.
19. There was a fairly unified agreement that God has wanted to do more in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and pour out His Spirit in much more abundant measure, but we have resisted the true Gospel. The results of this have driven most within our church to the opposite extremes of legalism and antinomianism (lawlessness). Only a rediscovering, accepting, and embracing of the true Gospel can accomplish a balance of the law and grace, and usher in great revival among our people.
Areas of Disagreement
1. What it truly means to be "justified by faith." Some understand the word to be used in the New Testament in a strictly forensic/legal sense, while others maintain that when God declares someone to be righteous, He also "makes" them righteous.
This single area brought about the most disagreement and discussion. Though we all proceeded in Christian love and grace, it did heat up quite a bit. By God's grace, we all maintained our composure and allowed God to help us treat each other with brotherly and sisterly love.
2. At the heart of this disagreement is whether God is going to have a people who have fully matured in their faith - and learned to completely walk by the Spirit - before His Second Coming. Some felt that this necessarily implied there was a different way of salvation for those who will be translated, maintaining that these people would be earning or contributing to their salvation. Those on the opposite side did not agree that it necessarily follows that simply because God would have a people who come to full maturity and learn how to completely overcome sin by His grace, that it means they would be "earning" their salvation or that they would be living by their own righteousness.
3. The latter group proposed that this "fully mature" people would constantly be living by the merits and blood of Christ, while the former group did not see how these two concepts (reaching full maturity and yet still living by God's grace and merits) could be reconciled.
4. A corollary to this concept was a disagreement over the definition of sin and what it means to be a "sinner."
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Monday, July 26, 2010
If you are looking for someone to shoot your wedding photography, or someone to shoot your senior pictures, or your fun family moments, check out the website and get in touch with her. Or if you'd like to purchase some classic New England art, check out the website as well.
I do hope you will have a look and get in touch with her (contact information is on the website).
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
I have shared this “Covenant Health Assessment” the last month or so with various audiences: two Camp Meetings and two of my churches. Please take a few minutes to go over it, keeping in mind that this is a “work in progress” and not scientific. If you have any disagreements over the answers, or on how I can word some of the questions more clearly, please let me know. Also, if you’d like to know why I have chosen the answer to be what it is, you can listen to my Northern New England Camp Meeting presentation that addresses this subject. Click here.
1. When it comes to salvation, justification is God’s part and sanctification is:
a. My part
b. God’s part
2. I feel it is important to return tithes and offerings because:
a. I want God to continue to bless me with temporal blessings
b. I am appreciative to God for what He has done for me
3. I want to go to heaven for:
a. My sake
b. Christ’s sake
4. When I am sick and in the hospital, I feel:
a. That unless my pastor visits me, I have not really received spiritual care
b. Happy just to have anyone from my church visit me
5. When I get into a fight/disagreement with someone else, I usually:
a. Wait for the other person to apologize/attempt to reconcile first
b. Try to initiate reconciliation, regardless of who is really in the wrong
6. When I miss my morning devotions with the Lord, I feel:
7. When my pastor misses a Board Meeting, I feel:
a. As though there are plenty of others in the church who are able to fill the void
b. He is not doing his job
8. When I am in a room with people and I see someone I know, I usually:
a. Try to initiate a conversation with him/her
b. Wait for him/her to initiate a conversation
9. When a fellow church member is living in open sin, I:
a. Feel like we have a responsibility to redemptively appeal to the person to bring his/her life into harmony with God and, if necessary, use church discipline
b. Recognize that we are all sinners and thus do not feel like it is our place to judge him/her
c. Encourage others to simply pray for him/her
10. When I recognize there is a sin or bad habit in my life that God has convicted me of, I:
a. Believe that Christ has already won the victory over that sin at the cross and claim His victory as my victory
b. Try my hardest to overcome my defects of character
11. I believe:
a. No one can completely overcome sinning this side of heaven
b. God’s grace can keep us from ever stumbling again
12. When it comes to doctrine, I believe:
a. It is not so much important as to what one believes, but how he/she lives
b. What one believes invariably informs how he/she lives
13. A young man really wants to get baptized but he has a smoking addiction. He has overcome many other bad habits but no matter what he does, he cannot stop smoking. You would:
a. Baptize him anyway because smoking is a hard addiction to kick, and to delay his baptism may discourage him
b. Explain to Him that Christ has already gained victory for Him, and baptism is a reflection of the fact that He has experientially received that victory
c. Tell him that he cannot be baptized until he stops smoking
14. God expects me to:
a. Make promises to Him
b. Believe His promises to me
15. A person says that obedience does not have to be a part of the Christian’s experience. That person is living under:
a. The New Covenant
b. The Old Covenant
Answers: For numbers 1-5, if you answered B, you get 2 points. If you answered A or C you get 0 points
For numbers 6-10, if you answered A you get 2 points. If you answered B or C you get 0 points
For numbers 11-15, if you answered B you get 2 points. If you answered A or C you get 0 points
Add all the points up: Highest possible is 30. Lowest possible is 0.
Here’s the bad news: this is a pass/fail test.
Either you got 30 points and passed.
Or you got anything less than 30 points and failed.
And I would imagine that very few get a perfect 30. If you did, you are ready for translation!
But this is the goal of God’s everlasting covenant-commitment: He is trying to completely expunge us of any and all old covenant thinking and behavior.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you shall all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions [Grk. schisms] among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me among you my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or '" am of Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).
How does this relate to baptism? Does it lend support to the idea that a Christian pastor - no matter what denomination he or she belongs to - should just baptize people into the "general" Christian body of Christ and not worry about what specific denominational label is slapped on the person? Quite the opposite, in fact! This denominationalism that Paul contended with was over specific personalities, not doctrine. It was over "Paul," and "Apollos," "Cephas," and even "Christ." But, again, what he urged was for each believer to, as the marginal reading of the NKJV says, "have a uniform testimony" (v. 10) - a testimony, of course, that aligns with scripture.
So, if I am a Baptist pastor or a Pentecostal pastor or a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, I am baptizing that person into the body of Christ, yes, but into the clearest expression of what Christ teaches. According to scripture, I cannot, in good conscience, baptize someone and then encourage them to find any shoe that "fits" their preferences or find a church where the pastor has a personality that suits their fancy. I am admonished to baptize them into the body of Christ - and the clearest revelation of the body of Christ.
Look, let me just be honest with you: according to my understanding of scripture, the Bible is pretty clear that there is something called the "remnant." If you disagree with me on this then there are other issues that we need to clear up before we can even have this discussion. If you are pretty clear on this concept, then we can proceed. But, according to this remnant concept, this body of believers are those who are the "remaining" ones, leftover from the true expression of the faith as set forth in the New Testament church. As a starting point, at the very least, this remnant people needs to "keep the commandments of God," which is precisely what the New Testament church did (see Revelation 12:17, 14:12). To put it plainly, simply because a denomination labels itself "Christian" does not make it thus! To be a Christian means to "follow Christ," and when a denomination (this does not speak to the individuals inside that denomination) refuses to continue to follow Christ into His truth, they cease from truly being a "Christian" church. (Again, this does not mean that individuals inside that particular denomination are not Christians. As noted above, Christ has many sheep in other "folds," but He is seeking to bring them all into "one flock.")